The Rams secured their third consecutive victory over their fierce East Midlands counterparts Nottingham Forest, with a well earned 1-0 victory at the City Ground.
Craig Bryson’s 54th minute strike was enough to settle the score-line, in a frantic and action-packed crunch match that saw Dexter Blackstock sent off for the home side.
It was a nervy and tentative opening few minutes for both teams, who were playing in front of an electric atmosphere at the City Ground – that included an impressive 4,389 Derby County supporters.
However, it was the Reds who threatened early on as Simon Cox teased Jake Buxton before seeing his low cross deflect off the former Mansfield Town defender. The Forest supporters were immediately on their feet calling for a penalty for handball against Buxton, however referee Robert Madley waved away the home side’s appeals.
In the 12th minute it was Derby’s turn to show their hand in attack, as Conor Sammon intercepted a loose ball and found Will Hughes. The Academy graduate, in turn played in the former Wigan Athletic striker down the left, who then curled a cross-come-shot harmlessly over the crossbar.
The home supporters had to wait until the 14th minute for their first real effort at goal, as Chris Cohen cut inside and sent a left-footed curler straight at Frank Fielding.
With such a frantic and energetic opening, both teams struggled to retain possession, and the game began to show signs it might boil over when Andy Reid was penalised for a late tackle on Buxton, whilst Gareth Roberts was harshly branded a yellow card for a foul on Chris Cohen.
Before the half was up, Lewis McGugan sent a 30-yard free-kick into the wall, whilst Fielding had to be alert for two other Forest set-pieces, firstly reacting smartly to Andy Reid’s in-swinger, and then punching clear the Republic of Ireland international’s second attempt moments later.
Then in first-half stoppage time Sammon sent a stinging 25-yard drive inches wide of Lee Camp’s goal, before Cox matched the Irishman’s effort moments later as he watched his fierce effort sail narrowly wide of Fielding’s far post.
With just seconds gone in the second-half, the game burst into life as Blackstock was given his matching orders by referee Madley, after the former Southampton striker led with an arm when contesting a header with Richard Keogh.
And less than 10 minutes after going a man down, the Reds found themselves a goal down. Brayford released Coutts down the right who sent a cross low and hard into the six-yard box. With Sammon, Jamie Ward and Craig Bryson all looking for the vital touch, it was the Scotsman who got there ahead of Camp to turn the ball into the net.
Forest fought back when Cohen’s cross was flicked wide by Cox at the near post - who remained the Reds’ main threat, however with the home side a man light, the Rams began to dictate the tempo of play.
With 20 minutes remaining Sean O’Driscoll introduced Henri Lansbury and Billy Sharp in a bid to inject a fresh impetus, but it was from another set-play that Forest looked most likely to score from, as Fielding fumbled Cohen’s initial free-kick before gathering at the second attempt.
In the final two minutes of normal time, Simon Gillett forced Fielding into a fantastic reflex save, as the former Doncaster Rovers midfielder sent a terrific dipping volley towards the bottom corner from 20-yards.
Despite five minutes of extra time, the Rams dug deep and showed resilience to hold on to their well-deserved one goal lead, and in turn seal their third League win in five games, and their first clean-sheet of the campaign.
Derby County: Fielding (GK); Brayford, Keogh, Buxton, Roberts (O’Connor 77); Coutts, Hendrick, Bryson, Hughes; Ward (Jacobs 65), Sammon (Robinson 81).
Subs Not Used: Legzdins (GK), Freeman, Gjokaj, Tyson.
Nottingham Forest: Camp (GK); Halford (Moloney 77), Ayala, Collins, Harding; Gillett, Cohen, McGugan (Lansbury 74), Reid (Sharp 74); Blackstock, Cox.
Subs Not Used: Evitmov (GK), Moussi, Coppinger, Majewski.
Attendance: 28,707 (4,389 Visiting Supporters).