CHRIS Porter notched a hat-trick as Derby clinched the totesport.com Central Division title for the second successive year against a youthful Sheffield United outfit.
Winger Lee Croft also registered in a one-sided encounter at Bramall Lane.
With Rotherham United manager Andy Scott and former Charlton Athletic boss Phil Parkinson watching in the stands, the visitors opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Callum Ball sent Porter clean through and the tall striker beat the offside trap, rounded United goalkeeper Mihkel Aksalu and tapped home into an unguarded net.
But the hosts, fielding just two players with Championship experience in Erik Tonne and Danny Philliskirk, almost equalised immediately, with Jack Adams inches away from converting Jordan Chappell’s dangerous low centre.
Porter was the architect of Derby’s second in the 19th minute, shrugging off Phil Roe’s challenge before seeing his shot superbly blocked by Aksalu. Croft, lively throughout on the right flank, picked up the loose ball and then cheekily lobbed the Estonian.
Moments later, United thought they had reduced the deficit when Tonne latched on to Marc Warren’s pass. The Norweigan turned sharply and coolly slotted home but his celebrations were cut short by the assistant referee, who disallowed the goal for offside.
The league leaders should have made it 3-0 after a mix-up at the back between Warren and Philliskirk but Aksalu produced a smart stop to foil Jeff Hendrick.
But the match was over as a contest two minutes after the re-start as Porter nodded in Croft’s cross, which took a wicked deflection off Roe, from close range.
It took a brilliant double save from Aksalu to thwart Porter and Derby substitute Alex Whitham after a lovely move involving Croft and Porter on the right.
But Porter was not to be denied and he completed his treble just after the hour mark following a lovely through ball from Ben Davies. In the dying minutes, Philliskirk came close to grabbing a consolation but his effort drifted just wide.
SHEFFIELD UNITED: Aksalu; Brown, James, Warren, Roe; Chappell (Gardos 55), Philliskirk, Lokberg, Edgar; Tonne (Pennycooke-Morgan 79), Adams (Ahmadi 65). Unused sub: Thomas.