Derby County kept alive their faint hopes of automatic promotion to the Premier League with victory over relegation-threatened Doncaster.

The Rams knew anything but a win would mean promotion for Burnley, who won at Blackpool earlier on Friday.

George Thorne curled his first of the season late in the opening half, before Theo Robinson went close to levelling.

Chris Martin turned home Jamie Ward's cross to seal the win and leave Donny three points above relegation.

Derby County since Steve McClaren's appointment

Steve McClaren
  • Position on 30 September: 14th
  • Played: 34
  • Wins: 20
  • Draws: 7
  • Losses: 7
  • Position on 18 April: 3rd

Derby's victory guarantees a play-off spot, and keeps them eight points behind Burnley - who occupy the Championship's second automatic promotion place - with three games to play.

But the Clarets will definitely secure a return to the Premier League if they beat Wigan at Turf Moor on Monday, whatever the Rams do at home to Barnsley.

Ahead of kick-off, Derby manager Steve McClaren said he had "expected Burnley to win" at Blackpool and that a play-off place was his side's aim.

Since arriving in September, the former England manager has guided County to 20 wins in 34 league matches, form which has seen them shoot from 14th position to third and sparked hope of a place in the top flight for the first time since 2008.

If they fall short of an automatic return, McClaren's side are set to enter the play-offs with plenty of momentum after a fifth win in seven outings.

Doncaster manager Paul Dickov called for his side to show his "drive, enthusiasm and belief" and they defended diligently in a tight first half, while using wingers David Cotterill and James Coppinger on the counter attack.

They almost went ahead when Derby defender Richard Keogh's back pass rolled towards his own goal and would have gone in but for a quick recovery by Lee Grant to stop the ball on the line.

Rams goalkeeper Grant smartly tipped over to deny Rovers top-scorer Chris Brown's powerful header, before Thorne curled the opener from range.

McClaren moved from the directors' box to the touchline just in time to see the 21-year-old, on loan from West Brom, convert his first goal in a Derby shirt.

The Rams have led at half-time on 19 occasions this season - more than any side in the league - and went close to doubling their advantage after the break when Craig Bryson raced on to Thorne's pass, only for Sam Johnstone to parry wide.

Promotion Monday?

Burnley will be promoted to the Premier League if they beat Wigan Athletic on Monday.

If Derby fail to beat Barnsley, the Clarets will also return to the top flight for the first time since 2010, regardless of their own result

Gabriel Tamas, playing in a protective mask, headed over as Doncaster fought back. But only Charlton and Blackpool have managed fewer goals in the league than Dickov's side this season, and they could not find an equaliser to aid their survival bid.

Rovers - who face third-from-bottom Millwall on Monday - almost drew level when substitute Robinson's lob was blocked by Grant.

But the contest was effectively ended when Martin stabbed home.

The striker stretched to convert a 19th league goal of the season, before Ward, whose cross created the opening, was denied a goal when his audacious chip was kept out by a finger-tip Johnstone save.

Lineup, Bookings (4) & Substitutions (6)

Doncaster Rovers

  • 33 Johnstone
  • 17 Tamas
  • 31 Stevens
  • 18 Keegan
  • 02 Quinn Booked
  • 20 Méité
  • 26 Coppinger
  • 04 Furman (Duffy - 75' )
  • 10 Sharp (Robinson - 66' )
  • 09 Brown (De Val - 90' Booked )
  • 11 Cotterill

Substitutes

  • 07 Duffy
  • 12 McCullough
  • 13 Maxted
  • 16 McCombe
  • 21 De Val
  • 22 Robinson
  • 35 Ferguson

Derby County

  • 01 Grant
  • 33 Wisdom
  • 03 Forsyth
  • 34 Thorne
  • 06 Keogh
  • 25 Buxton
  • 04 Bryson Booked
  • 19 Hughes (Hendrick - 81' )
  • 09 Martin Booked
  • 35 Bamford (Ward - 51' )
  • 11 Russell (Dawkins - 61' )

Substitutes

  • 08 Hendrick
  • 10 Ward
  • 14 Eustace
  • 18 Sammon
  • 26 Legzdins
  • 27 Whitbread
  • 32 Dawkins
Ref: Simon Hooper
Att: 11,405

Match Stats

Shots

13 9

On target

2 5

Corners

6 6

Fouls

10 13

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Doncaster Rovers 0, Derby County 2.

90:00 +4:33 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Doncaster Rovers 0, Derby County 2.

90:00 +3:22 Booking

Booking Marc (Doncaster Rovers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

90:00 +3:14

Jamie Ward (Derby County) wins a free kick on the right wing.

90:00 +3:14

Foul by Marc (Doncaster Rovers).

90:00 +2:59

Attempt blocked. Enda Stevens (Doncaster Rovers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Paul Quinn.

90:00 +2:28

Foul by Simon Dawkins (Derby County).

90:00 +2:28

Gabriel Tamas (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

90:00 +1:16

Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Sam Johnstone.

90:00 +1:14

Attempt saved. Jamie Ward (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Chris Martin.

90:00 +0:11

Foul by Jeff Hendrick (Derby County).

90:00 +0:11

Paul Keegan (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

89:11 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Doncaster Rovers. Marc replaces Chris Brown because of an injury.

86:57

Simon Dawkins (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

86:57

Foul by Abdoulaye Méité (Doncaster Rovers).

80:43

Corner, Doncaster Rovers. Conceded by Richard Keogh.

80:21 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Derby County. Jeff Hendrick replaces Will Hughes.

79:00 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Doncaster Rovers 0, Derby County 2. Chris Martin (Derby County) right footed shot from the left side of the six yard box to the top right corner. Assisted by Jamie Ward with a cross.

78:01

Attempt saved. Jamie Ward (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Craig Forsyth.

75:35

Attempt saved. Theo Robinson (Doncaster Rovers) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Mark Duffy.

74:02 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Doncaster Rovers. Mark Duffy replaces Dean Furman.

73:27

Attempt missed. David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Enda Stevens.

69:47

Chris Martin (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

69:47

Foul by Gabriel Tamas (Doncaster Rovers).

69:26 Booking

Booking Chris Martin (Derby County) is shown the yellow card.

65:24 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Doncaster Rovers. Theo Robinson replaces Billy Sharp.

63:43 Booking

Booking Paul Quinn (Doncaster Rovers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

63:31

Chris Martin (Derby County) wins a free kick on the left wing.

63:31

Foul by Paul Quinn (Doncaster Rovers).

61:30

Attempt missed. Gabriel Tamas (Doncaster Rovers) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by David Cotterill with a cross following a set piece situation.

60:55

Foul by Jake Buxton (Derby County).

60:55

Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick on the right wing.

60:10 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Derby County. Simon Dawkins replaces Johnny Russell.

59:03

Attempt blocked. Craig Forsyth (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Craig Bryson.

57:06

Attempt missed. David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Paul Keegan.

56:27

Corner, Doncaster Rovers. Conceded by George Thorne.

55:54

Corner, Doncaster Rovers. Conceded by Jamie Ward.

55:22

Hand ball by Will Hughes (Derby County).

54:43

Attempt missed. Johnny Russell (Derby County) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left following a corner.

54:22

Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Abdoulaye Méité.

53:53

Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Sam Johnstone.

53:51

Attempt saved. Craig Bryson (Derby County) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by George Thorne.

53:02

Attempt missed. Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.

53:00

Attempt blocked. David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

50:32

Foul by Chris Martin (Derby County).

50:32

Gabriel Tamas (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

50:14 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Derby County. Jamie Ward replaces Patrick Bamford.

47:10

Jake Buxton (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

47:10

Foul by Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers).

45:00

Second Half begins Doncaster Rovers 0, Derby County 1.

45:00 +1:25 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Doncaster Rovers 0, Derby County 1.

44:43 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Doncaster Rovers 0, Derby County 1. George Thorne (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Will Hughes.

43:07

Will Hughes (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

43:07

Foul by Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers).

42:05

Richard Keogh (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

42:05

Foul by Billy Sharp (Doncaster Rovers).

41:28

Dangerous play by Craig Bryson (Derby County).

41:28

Paul Keegan (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

40:17

Foul by Patrick Bamford (Derby County).

40:17

Enda Stevens (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

39:37

Offside, Doncaster Rovers. Dean Furman tries a through ball, but Paul Keegan is caught offside.

35:05

Will Hughes (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

35:05

Foul by Dean Furman (Doncaster Rovers).

34:27

Attempt blocked. Enda Stevens (Doncaster Rovers) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

33:53

Corner, Doncaster Rovers. Conceded by Craig Forsyth.

26:52

Foul by Jake Buxton (Derby County).

26:52

Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

26:02

Jake Buxton (Derby County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

26:02

Foul by Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers).

25:26

Attempt blocked. David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Enda Stevens.

23:16

Foul by Patrick Bamford (Derby County).

23:16

Enda Stevens (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

21:40

Attempt missed. Abdoulaye Méité (Doncaster Rovers) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Enda Stevens with a cross following a corner.

21:15

Corner, Doncaster Rovers. Conceded by Lee Grant.

21:00

Attempt saved. Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Gabriel Tamas with a cross.

19:05

Attempt missed. Gabriel Tamas (Doncaster Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right following a set piece situation.

18:15 Booking

Booking Craig Bryson (Derby County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

18:06

Foul by Craig Bryson (Derby County).

18:06

James Coppinger (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick on the right wing.

16:57

Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Gabriel Tamas.

16:11

Foul by Will Hughes (Derby County).

16:11

David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

15:03

Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Abdoulaye Méité.

14:41

Attempt missed. Craig Bryson (Derby County) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Patrick Bamford following a corner.

14:08

Corner, Derby County. Conceded by Sam Johnstone.

13:28

Chris Martin (Derby County) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

13:28

Foul by Abdoulaye Méité (Doncaster Rovers).

12:59

Attempt missed. David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

11:48

Attempt blocked. Craig Bryson (Derby County) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Chris Martin.

8:33

Foul by Craig Forsyth (Derby County).

8:33

James Coppinger (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick on the right wing.

5:54

Dangerous play by Patrick Bamford (Derby County).

5:54

Abdoulaye Méité (Doncaster Rovers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

4:01

Corner, Doncaster Rovers. Conceded by Andre Wisdom.

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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