Derby County came from two goals down to rescue a draw against Cardiff City earning a valuable point in this Sky Bet Championship clash at the iPro Stadium, although their performance probably merited more.
A dominant first half display from the Rams saw them do everything but put the ball in the back of the net as they bossed possession and created numerous chances to take the lead against the visitors, who were without a manager following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure in midweek.
Derby spent most of the opening half camped out in the Cardiff half and the visitors’ defence had to be at their best to cope with the attacking threat. Bluebirds’ ‘keeper, David Marshall, needed to make a couple of key saves to keep the Rams’ out, while at the other end, Lee Grant wasn’t called into action once.
The Rams would live to regret not making their first half dominance count after the break through as Cardiff scored two quick goals, first through an acrobatic overhead kick from Aron Gunnarsson, before Peter Whittingham drilled the ball past a despairing Lee Grant to double their lead.
Almost instantly, substitute, Jordon Ibe halved the deficit with his first goal in a Rams’ shirt, scoring with a smart finish from inside the area and Craig Bryson earned Derby a draw with less than ten minutes to go, unleashing a 20-yard screamer that found the back of the Cardiff net via the left post.
A clever one-two between Hughes and Martin almost saw Derby open the scoring in just the ninth minute, but City ‘keeper Marshall reacted quickly to close down the latter and make a good save at the striker’s feet.
And seconds later, the Rams had put the ball in the net, but the assistant referee had already raised his flag to signal that Simon Dawkins had been offside when he’d latched onto Hughes’ through ball before chipping Marshall.
Derby were on the front foot and another chance fell the way of Dawkins when he found himself in space on the edge of the box, but his powerful effort was always rising and whistled over the top of Marshall’s crossbar.
The Rams were piling on the pressure and Ward looked certain to score when a loose ball fell his way inside the area, but Marshall made a fantastic stop to deny the winger his third goal of the week and keep the game scoreless.
Derby kept knocking on the door and this time it was Hughes’ turn to try his luck when a Jamie Ward cross was headed into his path and the midfielder hit a dipping volley just wide of Marshall’s right hand post.
At the other end, Cardiff had their first significant chance of the game through Anthony Pilkington after half an hour, but his effort from outside the area never looked likely to trouble Grant as it rose over the bar and into the stand.
Derby finished the half strongly and spent the majority of the final fifteen minutes camped out in their opponents half, but couldn’t find the breakthrough their hard work merited with the game goalless as the teams left the pitch at the break.
Within five minutes of the restart, Cardiff made Derby pay for not making the most of their first half dominance when they failed to deal with a corner and Gunnarsson scored with a bicycle kick from six yards out to put the visitors in front.
And just minutes later things went from bad to worse as Gunnarsson got down the right wing and pulled the ball back for Whittingham who lashed the ball into the top corner from inside the 18-yard box to make it 2-0 to the away side.
Derby pulled themselves back into the tie almost immediately when a great low cross from Cyrus Christie found substitute, Ibe in the area who took a touch before curling the ball past Marshall to half the deficit and record his first Rams’ goal.
Derby went in search of an equaliser and almost found it in the 74th minute when Ibe hit an ambitious effort from around 30-yards out, but his powerful shot was a couple of inches too high to trouble Marshall.
Johnny Russell had barely been on the pitch for five minutes when he brought a great save out of Marshall with a powerful effort from outside the area that the Cardiff ‘keeper did well to palm away at his right hand side.
But the Rams finally got the equaliser their play deserved when a poor Cardiff clearance fell to Bryson and the midfielder struck a thunderous effort from 20-yards that smashed against the inside of the post and into Marshall’s net to make it 2-2.
Derby threw everything at Cardiff in the closing minutes as they went in search of a winner, but the Rams’ couldn’t quite pick a way through the visitors’ defence and the match ended in a draw.
Derby County: Grant (GK), Christie, Keogh (C), Whitbread, Forsyth, Eustace (Best 58’), Hughes, Bryson, Ward (Russell 79’), Dawkins (Ibe 53’), Martin
Substitutes not used: Roos (GK), Shotton, L Naylor, Mascarell
Cardiff City: Marshall (C), Brayford, Connolly, Manga, Ralls, Whittingham, Gunnarsson (Maynard 72’), Adeyemi, Noone (Le Fondre 63’), Pilkington, Jones
Substitutes not used: Moore, John, Morrison, Daehli, Guerra.