Derby won their third derby match in a row after a scrappy game that saw the hosts down to 10 men in controversial circumstances. James Bolton reports from the City Ground.
Forest made two changes for the visit of Derby County, bringing in Lewis McGugan and Chris Cohen, who returned to the fixture in which he picked up that cruciate ligament injury last season.
As you would expect from such a fiercely contested rivalry, the game started in a frantic fashion with plenty of tackles flying in.
Craig Bryson and Simon Cox were both lucky to escape bookings, and possibly more severe punishment, as they committed full-blooded high challenges. Derby centre-half Jake Buxton was also in the thick of it, conceding numerous fouls for buffeting into the back of Dexter Blackstock.
The opening to the game was more about feisty challenges than goalmouth opportunities. Forest had claims for a penalty when Cox’s dinked ball into the box appeared to clip Buxton’s elbow, but referee Robert Madley saw nothing wrong.
Andy Reid was the first man to go into the book for a late dive on Buxton. It wasn’t as bad as some of the earlier tackles and, in an attempt to try and keep things calm early on, it was Madley’s first significant inconsistent judgement.
Despite the scrappy nature of the game, Forest was the better side and were doing their best to work shooting opportunities. Cohen looked to test Frank Fielding with a curling left-foot effort from the edge of the box, but the Derby keeper saved comfortably.
Reid forced Fielding into a strong save from a free-kick, parrying the ball away amongst a crowded penalty box. Buxton and Gareth Roberts both picked up bookings before half-time for late challenges on Blackstock and Cohen with the Forest fans in uproar.
With shooting chances at a premium, Connor Sammon and Cox both fired in great efforts from distance just before the whistle, but both strikers’ shots flew just over.
The first half had been incredibly scrappy, with the referee quickly becoming the centre of attention on what was only the 26-year-old’s 15th game at Championship level.
Immediately after the break, Madley made a decision that would entirely change the complexion of the game. Blackstock rose with Richard Keogh in an aerial challenge and much to the dismay of the players and crowd, Blackstock was brandished a red card for an apparent elbow. It meant a red card had been shown in the last four encounters between the sides.
The Forest striker did catch Keogh but it was incredibly harsh, given that it looked like Blackstock only had eyes for the ball, and was using his arms for leverage rather than any malicious intent.
Less than 10 minutes later and Derby made the most of their numerical advantage and scored with their first shot on goal. John Brayford found space down the right and, just as the right-back released a pass in field, Reid dived in which created space down the right flank. Brayford played a ball wide to Paul Coutts, who delivered a perfect delivery into the box for Bryson to tap home from inside the six-yard box.
Derby were finding more space on the ball and for the first time in the match were having more possession than Forest. Bryson looked to double his tally with a curling effort from outside the box, but Camp was equal to it.
Sean O’Driscoll then brought on Billy Sharp and Henri Lansbury for Reid and Lewis McGugan, who both had been ineffective in the second half.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, Forest looked to hit back and were seeing much more of the ball. Cohen’s looping free-kick almost found the head of Danny Collins while Sharp couldn’t quite latch onto a loose ball in the box after Cox was dispossessed.
Forest’s best chance at stealing a point fell to Simon Gillett. The midfielder pounced on a poor Derby clearance and struck a fierce half-volley from the edge of the box but Fielding made a great save, and was fortunate to see the ball fall to the feet of a Derby man.
Both Lansbury and Cox were booked late on for simply standing next to Fielding in an attempt to get him to hurry the game along, meaning the latter will miss Wednesday’s clash with Blackburn Rovers due to an accumulation of bookings.
The game came to an end with Derby claiming bragging rights once more, making it their third consecutive derby day win. Referee Madley was at the centre of the controversy, getting a huge decision that completely changed the game.
While Forest will rightfully point fingers at a questionable performance by an inexperienced official, the fact is, once again, Forest didn’t really play too well against a side who offered very little in attack. Performances have been below average since the international break and it seems O’Driscoll is yet to find his best formation, particularly in a midfield. Perhaps being forced into making changes for the visit of Blackburn may give us chance to try something different.