For only the second time during the 2012/13 campaign, Derby County failed to score at Pride Park, as a determined Wolverhampton Wanderers side battled for a point.
Despite the ingenuity of Jamie Ward and in the latter stages Michael Jacobs, the Rams could not find a way to break down a stringent Wolves side.
Conor Sammon’s second-half header that flashed into the side netting prior to Ward’s stoppage time free-kick, were as close as the home side came to securing all three points, whilst Dean Saunders’ men staked a claim for a victory when Bakary Sako saw his low drive superbly kept out by Adam Legzdins
When the teams were broadcast across the public address system at Pride Park, supporters and journalists alike noted that the only amend to the Rams’ starting line-up from the midweek defeat at Hull City was the inclusion of 19-year-old Michael Hoganson.
The former Newcastle United defender was drafted in for his first ever Derby start; replacing Gareth Roberts, who began his three match suspension following a red card at the KC Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Roberts’ absence meant that Derby’s starting line-up did not feature a single player over the age of 26, whilst the average age of the first XI was 23.3.
It was perhaps a slight nervousness from the inexperienced line-up that allowed the visitor’s to start proceedings particularly brightly, with skipper Richard Keogh forced to make a vital interception, before Karl Henry volleyed over, both within the opening three minutes of play.
Former Tottenham Hotspur’s midfielder Jamie O’Hara then forced Adam Legzdins
into his first action of the 90 minutes, with a delicately floated left-footed half volley. However, Wolves’ exuberant opening was soon stemmed by the Rams, as Will Hughes and Ward both sent efforts narrowly wide of Carl Ikeme’s goal.
With knee injuries keeping defensive trio Jake Buxton, Mark O’Brien and James O’Connor sidelined, John Brayford retained his place alongside Richard Keogh at the heart of the Rams’ back-four, with Kieron Freeman continuing his role at right-back.
Although Freeman was making only his fourth ever start for the club, the former Nottingham Forest defender showed no sign of abstaining from Brayford’s customary attacking intent - with one move in particular replicating the Paul Coutts-Brayford-esque combination - as in the 28th minute, Freeman escaped down the right before seeing his low cross evade the near post dash of Ward by a matter of inches.
In the second-half Derby continued to search for a method of breaking down a resilient Wolves side, whilst remaining wary of the quality at their opponents’ disposal, which was highlighted by Sako’s burst of pace and drive that forced Legzdins into a terrific reflex save, and O’Hara’s half-volley, on 60 minutes, which left the Rams’ shot-stopper a mere spectator, as the ball fell agonisingly wide.
Nigel Clough introduced Michael Jacobs moments later in a bid to unlock the visitor’s defence, and the winger almost had an instant impact when he combined well with Conor Sammon, who in turn, found Coutts, but the midfielder’s subsequent low strike was blocked on its way to goal.
Jacobs then supplied the ammunition to Sammon once again, this time with a terrific curling cross, but after out-leaping Danny Batth in the air, the former Wigan Athletic striker’s header brushed the side netting as it flew wide.
In the final minutes the Rams continued did their best to set-up a grandstand finish, but Ward’s stoppage time free-kick was well held by Ikeme, as Clough’s men were forced to share the spoils.
Derby County: Legzdins; Freeman, Keogh, Brayford, Hoganson; Coutts, Hendrick, Hughes (Jacobs 63), Bryson; Ward, Sammon.
Subs Not Used: Fielding, Doyle, Robinson, Davies, Bennett, Gjokaj.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ikeme; Foley, Batth, Gorkss, Ward; Doyle (Ebanks-Blake 70), Edwards (Peszko 89), Henry, O’Hara (Davis 74); Sigurdason, Sako.
Subs Not Used: De Vries, Berra, Doherty, Cassidy.