Maybe we all should’ve staked every penny we had on 1-1 and walked away happy. Isn’t 1-1 exactly how we expected it to be?
Except, dominating away from home, there was definitely a case for Forest taking all three points. And even though it’s now 1,231 days since Derby beat us, it felt a little like a kick in the teeth. Especially given that Forest pretty much did everything that Chris Hughton had asked of them for the most part of the game.
Yuri Ribeiro was preferred to Gaëtan Bong, who didn’t make the squad, while James Garner was preferred to Ryan Yates, who didn’t make the squad. But Hughton is paid to make the decisions, and increasingly it seems we can trust him to make the right ones.
The first 20 minutes or so were cagey, both sides giving nothing away — three-quarters of the play remained in the middle third. And with Forest disciplined behind the ball, it seemed as if we were simply waiting for Derby to make a mistake.
Ribeiro’s block on 22 minutes from Martyn Waghorn’s shot, following Graeme Shinnie’s half-volley, was as close as either side came in the first half-hour. And then Jason Knight looped the ball over bar after Brice Samba was impeded trying punch the clearance.
For possibly the one moment that Luke Freeman and Anthony Knockaert switched wings during the game, the resulting corner gave Forest the lead. After the ball was cleared on 33 minutes, Ribeiro’s looping ball was met by a powerful Joe Worrall header across the box which fell to Garner, who finished beneath David Marshall.
Derby’s defence switched off as the ball was kept alive, and Glenn Murray’s dummy in the box allowed the on-loan Manchester United to score his first senior goal. And the home side’s defence did the same again just a few minutes later, seemingly rattled from conceding.
Marshall went off five minutes before the end of the half, and his replacement Kelle Roos spilled the ball in added time from Garner’s shot, but he retrieved it before Murray could pounce. Forest were now in the ascendency, with Derby struggling to get a hold on the game.
The second-half continued in much the same vein. Although Colin Kazim-Richards managed to get in between the centre-backs after 10 minutes, and his shot across goal was a warning.
Anthony Knockaert, at this point, was very clearly up for the challenge with tackles, trickery, work-rate and vision on display — his confidence in abundance, demonstrating what he can offer when he’s settled in the side.
A Knockaert pass saw Cyrus Christie free down the line to cross to Garner, whose tame header found Roos. But, at times, the football from Forest was scintillating. The Frenchman at the heart of everything.
But, no matter how promising Forest looked, it always remains nervous at 1-0. The chances continued though with a towering header back across goal from Worrall on 71 minutes, from a Knockaert corner. And then Freeman shot just over a few minutes later, with Forest still very much alive to Derby’s mistakes.
But the inevitable equaliser came from Kazim-Richards on 84 minutes after a through ball from Lee Gregory. Tobias Figueiredo failed to clear but it was an almost unstoppable shot past Samba.
Chances still presented themselves for both sides, but Forest’s inability to score more than a goal a game — with the exception of Coventry, Millwall and Wycombe — is still the problem Hughton has to address.
The manager said after the game: “Disappointment is probably the overriding feeling for us at the moment. I didn’t feel Derby were too much of a threat in the first half despite having more possession and I felt we were fairly comfortable. In the second half we had more possession, we got into better areas and I felt we should have killed the game off. Their goal is a fantastic strike but we should have been well out of sight by that point.”
But seven points from nine, in three games in seven days, is a good week. And the distance from the bottom three is continuing to grow. As is the belief that a corner has been turned.