Chris Cohen strikes to earn Nottingham Forest a point at Derby County
ALEX McLeish claimed a point from his first East Midlands derby, as a goal from Chris Cohen helped Nottingham Forest end a run of three straight defeats to Derby with a 1-1 draw at Pride Park.
The Reds boss saw Cohen put his side ahead in the first half, before Jamie Ward fired the Rams level after the break in what was a typically passionate, closely contested derby.
Billy Sharp might have won it for the Reds with a late turn and shot that flashed just wide of the post, but a point was just about a fair result at the end of an absorbing encounter.
In the first minute Danny Collins was forced to concede a corner, as he slid in with a vital challenge on Connor Sammon, after Forest had given away possession in midfield.
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But Karl Darlow, making his second start in goal for the Reds in the Championship, showed good composure to come and claim the ball amid a melee of players.
The Forest keeper was then quick across his goal to cover as Craig Bryson let fly with a long shot, but it was always flying wide of the post.
Jamie Ward came close to opening the scoring in the ninth minute as he let fly with a driven free kick that briefly, after taking a deflection, looked as though it would fly inside the post, with Darlow wrong-footed. But the Forest fans behind the goal were delighted to see it spin narrowly wide.
Greg Halford’s long throw forced a nervous punch out of keeper Adam Legzdins at his near post, but the Forest defender’s attempt to fire the cleared ball back into the danger zone was poor.
Forest were hugely unlucky not to take the lead in the 14th minute, when Sharp held the ball up well before feeding Cox in the box, where the striker smashed a rising shot against the underside of the bar.
The visitors were suddenly looking dangerous going forward, with Gonzalo Jara then lifting a shot over the top after pushing down the flank with menace.
A slightly soft free kick, given after Collins had challenged Sammon for an aerial ball 25 yards from goal, saw Darlow have to make a strong claim under pressure from Jamie Ward, who was given a lecture from referee Clatterburg, for his physical challenge on the keeper.
Another long throw from Halford was this time confidently dealt with by Legzdins, who held the ball well under pressure.
When Cox fed Cohen into space down the left, it seemed like a promising position for Forest. But the midfielder’s cross was cleared and Derby broke quickly through Sammon, with Paul Coutts firing a shot into the side netting.
But it was Forest who were to take the lead in the 31st minute, with Cohen the man to apply the vital touch. When the ball was played in to Cohen, just inside the box, the midfielder initially spectacularly miss-hit an attempted shot, but it rebounded back to him and he made no mistake at the second attempt, driving the ball home.
Having been on the back foot for the opening exchanges, Forest were finishing the half the stronger of the two sides, although neither side were finding clear chances easy to come by.
Cox did force a smart save from Legzdins with a crisp shot, although much of the pace was taken off the ball by a deflection. While, at the other end, Jamie Ward let fly with a spectacular strike that did not miss the target by much.
The second half began with a good chance for Sharp, following a flowing move that saw the striker sent racing through the centre, with Legzdins reacting sharply to race off his line and bundle the ball away from the Forest man, as he attempted to head it beyond the keeper.
Seven minutes into the second half, Derby pulled themselves level. Sammon collected possession just outside the box and had the composure to slot a simple, but decisive pass into the pass of Jamie Ward, who delivered a precise finish, to lift the roof off Pride Park.
The goal galvanised the Rams, who could have gone ahead almost immediately, with Jeff Hendrick seeing Darlow push away a rocket of a shot, struck from just inside the box.
Garath Roberts had a half-chance as the Rams pushed again, but his low shot lacked the power to trouble Darlow.
When Gillett gave away possession in midfield, Hendrick raced towards goal, with Elliott Ward forced to bring him down on the edge of the box, earning himself a booking in the process. Jamie Ward drove the resulting free kick powerfully against the defensive wall, which stood firm.
Henri Lansbury lashed a low shot well wide of the target at the other end, before Forest made an early change, with Dexter Blackstock replacing Majewski.
Cox then struck a cross-shot across the face of goal that Sharp was almost able to connect with at the far post, as Forest carved out some space with a quick flurry of passing.
Guy Moussi then came on for Gillett, who had worked hard, but had also twice given the ball away in critical areas.
Forest twice pressurised from set pieces, firstly from a Cohen free kick that was desperately headed clear as Legzdins found himself out of position and again from the resulting corner, with Ward heading powerfully down into the turf and seeing the ball bounce over the bar.
Cohen was a little ambitious when he tried his luck from 30 yards, with his shot flying five or six feet wide.
Forest looked dangerous when Moussi carried the ball forcefully into the Derby half, with a Cohen cross forcing Derby to concede a corner. Cox saw a shot deflected wide as Forest tried for a winner.
While Forest had an appeal for handball rejected, as the ball bounced around the tightly packed penalty area.
A neat turn from Sharp saw him flash a sharp agonisingly close to goal, with the ball fizzing just the wrong side of the post.