Jamie Ward’s 10th goal of the season maintained the Rams’ unbeaten run against sides in the bottom half of the npower Championship at Pride Park, as Derby battled back to seal a thoroughly deserved point against Bolton Wanderers.
The Northern Irish international headed Michael Jacobs’ cross into the bottom corner with just eight minutes remaining, after Craig Dawson had handed the Trotters a first-half lead when he glanced Jay Spearing’s free-kick into the net.
Derby were cursing their luck late on as opportunities fell the Rams’ way when substitute Theo Robinson was denied twice by Hungarian international goalkeeper Adam Bogdan in the final five minutes.
Following their relegation from the Premier League for the first time in over a decade, Bolton have found it difficult to adapt to the pace of the Championship, with statistics prior to this evening’s encounter revealing the Trotters hold the worst conversation rate in the division, with only one goal resulting from every 5.02 shots on target.
The statistics matched the theory in the opening 10 minutes as Dougie Freedman’s men struggled to contend with the Rams’ rampant, fast paced opening.
A mix-up between Dawson and goalkeeper Adam Bogdan led to raucous jeering from the home supporters, before Jamie Ward saw his near post half-volley blocked in a frantic first two minutes.
French Under-21 international David Ngog kept the home side in check with a tame strike from the edge of the area, however, the game’s vibrant opening was soon interrupted following an injury to Kieron Freeman, whilst Dawson also required treatment for the visitors.
Freeman’s replacement, Ben Davies almost had an instant impact on proceedings when he linked up with Paul Coutts down the right, prior to Jeff Hendrick’s deep cross being headed narrowly wide by Craig Bryson.
Coutts thrashed a volley wide from a tight angle, before Ngog once again reminded the Rams of Bolton’s presence when he forced Adam Legzdins
into action with a low drive from the right.
And Ngog’s effort did prove a warning shot, as during stoppage time in the first-half, the Trotters took the lead through a goal laced with Premier League experience.
Liverpool loanee Jay Spearing’s free-kick was devilishly whipped into the Derby penalty area, where defender Dawson, on loan from West Bromwich Albion, rose highest to glance the ball into the net, although replays indicate the final touch may have come off Richard Keogh.
In the second-half the Rams responded to their goal deficit valiantly, as Jacobs danced his way through the Bolton defence to tee up Conor Sammon who stabbed an effort wide at the near post, whilst Coutts’ half-volley looked destined for the bottom corner, only for Bogdan to claw the ball away to safety.
The Hungarian goalkeeper came to Bolton’s rescue once again in the 74th minute when he beat Coutts’ low strike away, as Derby mounted an attacking onslaught on their opponents in the final quarter.
Jacobs went on a jinking run and found Sammon inside the penalty area, who swivelled away from Zac Knight, but his low drive fell inches wide of the far post, whilst Keogh’s downward header almost found the former Kilmarnock striker, but his flailing leg did not quite connect as Bogdan claimed the loose ball.
However, with eight minutes to go the Rams’ constant pressure was rewarded. Jacobs found room on the left to cross towards the far post, where Ward headed downwards and into the bottom corner, to the relief of the home fans.
Ward’s goal set-up a grandstand finish and with just five minutes remaining Derby almost found an elusive winner when Robinson escaped his marker, only to see his close-range header superbly saved by Bogdan from point blank range.
Derby County: Legzdins; Freeman (Davies 29), Keogh, Brayford, Hoganson; Coutts (Robinson 74), Hendrick, Bryson, Jacobs; Sammon, Ward.
Subs Not Used: Fielding, Bennett, Hanson, Doyle, Gjokaj.
Bolton Wanderers: Bogdan; Mears, Knight, Dawson, Ricketts; Spearing, Pratley, Chung-Yong, Eagles (M. Davies 85) ; Ngog (K. Davies 65), C Davies (Sordell 74).
Subs Not Used: Lonergan, Holden, Wheater, De Ridder.
Attendance: 22,145 (774 Visiting Supporters).