Half-time: Michael Jacobs and Jeff Hendrick strike to put Derby County 2-0 up against Middlesbrough
GOALS from Michael Jacobs and Jeff Hendrick have put Derby County 2-0 up at half-time in their New Year's Day clash with Middlesbrough at Pride Park.
Jacobs opened the scoring in the 19th minute and Hendrick added a brilliant second shortly before the interval.
Kieron Freeman was handed his first senior start for Derby at left-back as Gareth Roberts was ruled out with a calf problem.
Mark O'Brien replaced James O'Connor at centre-back after shaking off a groin strain, while Conor Sammon and Jacobs were recalled at the expense of Theo Robinson and Nathan Tyson.
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Derby started off at a high tempo, while Boro attempted to hit the home side on the break.
There were few chances in a lively opening, Jacobs firing wide from distance in the 11th minute.
The Rams opened the scoring just before the 20-minute mark, after Paul Coutts had drawn a foul from Scott McDonald.
Ben Davies whipped in the free kick from wide on the right and Jacobs connected sweetly with a half-volley from 12 yards out that flew low past keeper Jason Steele.
Jeff Hendrick was off target with a speculative effort following a driving run from midfield as Derby looked to add to their lead.
Boro went close to an equaliser in the 32nd minute.
Lukas Jutkiewicz span past O'Brien and his low shot was blocked into the path of full-back Stuart Parnaby, who blasted his first-time effort over the bar.
The visitors lost former England defender Jonathan Woodgate to injury, so Nicky Bailey had to drop into an already makeshift back line.
And Derby doubled their advantage three minutes before the break.
A clearance dropped to Hendrick outside the box to the right of goal and he chested the ball down before hitting a superb half-volley with the outside of his right foot, which curved away from Steele and into the top corner of the net.
Davies had gone close with a free kick that dipped just over and he went he closer in the 45th minute from an almost identical position, his fine effort smacking against the joint of post and crossbar.