Derby County gave the npower Championship League leaders a run for their money at Cardiff City Stadium, as a spirited display from a threadbare Rams’ side sealed a thoroughly deserved point.
Conor Sammon’s measured finish on 75 minutes had given Nigel Clough’s men the lead, however substitute Craig Noone rescued a draw for the Welsh side when he headed in Andrew Taylor’s searching cross seven minutes later.
Despite a depleted squad, with eight senior professionals unavailable through injury, the Rams’ side displayed lashings of exuberance in the opening period.
Firstly, Chris Martin dragged an effort wide following a bout of head tennis on the edge of the penalty area, before Paul Coutts saw his 25-yard volley superbly diverted away from the bottom corner by David Marshall.
However, with the experience of Heidar Helguson, Frazier Campbell and Tommy Smith in attack, Cardiff did not take long to exhibit their offensive qualities, as in a swift counter-attacking move, Smith fizzed a low ball across the face of goal in search of the surging run of Campbell, who came within inches of making contact with a desperate lunge.
But against all odds, Derby battled away and had the better of the opportunities in the first-half, leaving the League leaders’ supporters grumbling in frustration.
On 20 minutes, Coutts’ exquisite pass released Sammon down the left; his cut back found Jeff Hendrick whose fierce drive appeared to strike the arm of Cardiff defender Ben Nugent on its way behind for a corner.
Then 10 minutes later Hendrick broke clear and hesitated until the final seconds to thread Martin in on the right; the striker hit a first time, sweeping shot into the net, however the assistant referee adjudged the forward to have been offside, although replays suggest the on loan Norwich City striker was in fact level.
Following the interval, Derby had to remain composed as Cardiff quite literally bombarded Adam Legzdins
On 60 minutes, Ben Turner flicked on an Aron Gunnarsson long-throw towards Campbell who rose with the 'keeper and Richard Keogh, but somehow the ball deflected over the crossbar, prior to Jake Buxton producing an impeccably timed last ditch tackle on the former Manchester United striker, as he raced clear.
The Rams’ resilience was duly rewarded in the 75th minute, as Davies’ low cross deflected high into the air off a combination of Martin and Turner, before dropping perfectly for Sammon who showed poise and precision to place the ball beyond the reach of Marshall.
However, Derby’s lead lasted just seven minutes as substitute Noone towered highest at the far post to nod in left-back Taylor’s deep cross in the 82nd minute.
Another City substitute in the form of Rudy Gestede, had a golden opportunity to steal all the points late on, when the unmarked Frenchman inexplicably volleyed over from inside the six-yard box.
Derby County: Legzdins; Gjokaj, Keogh, Buxton, Roberts; Davies, Coutts, Hendrick, Forsyth (Jacobs 71); Martin, Sammon.
Subs not used: Fielding, Hoganson, Bennett, Doyle.
Cardiff City: Marshall; Connolly, Nugent, Turner, Taylor; Gunnarsson, Whittingham, Smith (Noone 72), Conway (Gestede 84); Campbell, Helguson (Mason 76).
Subs not used: Lewis, McNaughton, Cowie, Kim.