Darren Ferguson delivered a tactical masterclass as Peterborough closed in on the Sky Bet League One play-offs, then diverted all of the praise onto his players.
Second-half goals from Ephron Mason-Clark and Nathanael Ogbeta moved Ferguson’s men to within a point of the top six as Derby’s slump continued with a 2-0 defeat.
The Rams’ early dominance forced Ferguson into a change of formation before the half-hour mark with a further double substitution following at the break.
The initial decision to switch to a back-three stemmed the tide of Derby pressure while the introduction of Dan Butler and Kwame Poku also had the desired effect.
Mason-Clark fired Posh into a 52nd-minute lead before County keeper Joe Wildsmith pulled off fine saves to deny Ogbeta and Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Derby saw a penalty appeal turned down when Harvey White hit the deck under a Frankie Kent challenge before sub Tom Barkhuizen squandered their best chance to level.
Moments later loan ace Ogbeta clinched the points when pouncing for his first Posh goal in the 82nd minute.
“I had some choice words to say at half-time,” admitted Ferguson. “It was a night and day performance.
“In the first half we didn’t do any of the things we had worked on. We didn’t even turn up. Derby were so comfortable and I didn’t like it one bit.
“We changed certain things tactically to give us a bit more balance but the biggest thing I said is that the lads would regret it for the rest of their careers if they carried on playing as they were.
“If we had lost today with that performance, it would have been consistent with how the rest of the season had gone, but this is a different kind of victory to keep the momentum going.
“I knew I would get a response in the second half when everyone saw what we are about, playing with energy and trying to score goals.
“We now know that we will be in the play-off places if we win next Saturday against Oxford, but that will be another tough game against a good team.
“The top four have gone – we can forget about them. The way I see it there are five teams including ourselves trying to get into fifth and sixth.”
While Rams chief Paul Warne was able to reflect on a much-improved display after a shock home loss at the hands of Fleetwood in their previous fixture, his side were again left pointless.
Warne admitted: “Our performance levels were significantly better than they were last Saturday.
“In that respect I was pleased but I didn’t feel we had enough in the final third and didn’t create enough chances when we were on top.
“In the first half it looked a lot more like the Derby County I know and it made Darren change his system after 30 minutes.
“At half-time we told the lads Peterborough would come at us and they scored the first goal with their first shot on target which lifted the crowd.”
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