Brennan Johnson’s late strike earned Nottingham Forest their first point of the season, as the Reds drew 1-1 with Derby County at Pride Park this afternoon.
Wayne Rooney’s side were deservedly ahead in the first half courtesy of Tom Lawrence’s early strike, but Johnson salvaged a point for the Reds following an improved display in the second half.
The first 10 minutes of this famous old clash between these two arch rivals certainly lived up to expectations amid a vociferous noise from the crowd.
Philip Zinckernagel and Craig Forsyth both threw themselves into an aerial challenge on halfway on six minutes, with the latter seemingly stamping on his opponent shortly after. A first flashpoint of the contest, and one which caused plenty of controversy.
Even more so, when Forsyth played an influential role in Derby’s opening goal.
A swift counter-attack saw Forsyth play a lofted ball over for Lawrence to chase. The Wales international had beaten the offside trap and was bearing down on goal, taking one touch before burying the ball into the bottom corner. Deadlock broken for the hosts, much to Wayne Rooney’s delight.
Rooney’s side were good value for their lead despite the early flashpoint, though. The Rams, leading the line with Lawrence, looked a fluid, fast-flowing outfit in the final third, and had chances to double their lead when Craig Forsyth volleyed over from a corner and then had a rebound blocked minutes later.
Lyle Taylor was presented with two opportunities before those aforementioned chances, though. Before Derby’s goal, the striker latched onto Phil Jagielka’s short backpass before attempting to lob Kelle Roos, but miscued his effort.
Taylor then found himself on the end of Jordan Gabriel’s cross following a quick counter-attack orchestrated by Brennan Johnson, but his looping header was nowhere near troubling enough.
Things began to heat up as the game approached half-time. James Garner was shown the game’s first card, with the Manchester United loanee booked for hauling down the on-rushing Max Bird. Kamil Jozwiak was then shown a yellow for a late challenge on Joe Worrall, shortly after the centre-half had gotten himself into a tangle with Louie Sibley, subsequently leading to strong appeals for a penalty from Derby fans and players alike which were waved away.
Derby were then presented with another major penalty appeal on the stroke of half-time, though. A cross was pulled back into the area and was eventually latched onto by Lawrence, whose shot ricocheted off Worrall and away from danger. Amid cries for a handball, Tim Robinson once again waved play on, before a few shoves and pushes broke out amongst both sets of players.
A lively opening 45 minutes, then, and the game wasn’t to slow down in pace as the second half got underway.
Shortly after Lawrence’s effort was saved well by Brice Samba, Brennan Johnson charged down the right-hand side before breaking into the area and firing just wide of the far post, after finding himself on the end of Taylor’s searching through ball.
Derby fans were now starting to become restless as they witnessed their side wasting possession and giving the ball away cheaply, and Forest – who introduced Alex Mighten at half-time – were beginning to grow in confidence. Bong’s cross nearly found an unmarked Taylor at the back stick, but the Rams recovered well to clear the danger, and another cross from the left-back found the head of Johnson, who glanced his effort off target.
Hughton made his second change of contest on 69 minutes, adding more impetus up top with Lewis Grabban replacing midfielder Ryan Yates. A change for the hosts, too, as youngster Jack Stretton replaced goalscorer Lawrence.
Derby then looked to work their way back into the game and kill the contest. Jozwiak thundered an effort just wide and into the side-netting on 73 minutes, and moments later, Sibley’s pull-back resulted in Stretton having a shot deflected wide.
Forest were then presented with their best chance of the half, with Mighten showing tricky footwork and pulling the ball across goal for fellow substitute Lewis Grabban – his flick was sent goalwards, with Roos managing to claw it off the goal-line.
But on 82 minutes, they found that equalising goal.
Bong’s cross wasn’t cleared properly, and Brennan Johnson, who had peeled away at the far post, unleashed a powerful half volley low and beyond Roos which he was unable to keep out of the net. A leveller for the Reds, pandemonium in the away end, and the game primed for an enthralling final 10 minutes.
Derby were unable to make their late pressure count, though, and in the end, Johnson’s late leveller earned the Reds their first point of the season, heading into the first international break of the campaign.