Derby County’s under-21 side kicked off their Professional Development League 2 North campaign with a 2-2 draw away to Leeds United.
The Rams led 2-0 in the first half thanks to goals from Michael Jacobs and Theo Robinson, but Leeds hit back with goals from Dominic Poleon and Ramon Nunez.
The Rams started the brighter of the two sides and had two golden opportunities to take the lead in the opening few minutes. Firstly, Robinson used his strength to hold the ball up well on the edge of the penalty area and tee up the onrushing Kane Richards, who crashed an effort towards the top corner that was expertly tipped behind from Paul Rachubka.
From the resulting corner, Rachubka was at full stretch once again to deny the Rams, as he clawed away Conor Doyle’s near post glancing header.
At the other end, the lively Poleon was proving to be a real thorn in the side of the Rams’ defence, and the nippy winger showed some neat trickery before forcing Adam Legzdins into a fine save from 20-yards.
Despite Poleon’s best efforts, the Rams went on to take the lead in the 11th minute as Jacobs curled home a terrific free-kick into the top corner after some neat interplay between Mason Bennett and new signing Keiron Freeman drew a foul on the edge of the box.
And before the half was up, the Rams found themselves two goals ahead thanks to Robinson’s clever movement at the far post. The former Millwall striker lost his marker and tapped in from inside the six-yard box after Bennett fired a low cross-come-shot across the face of goal.
After the interval, Bennett had an opportunity to extend the Rams’ lead but the 16-year-old striker was always stretching and could only stab his 12-yard effort wide of goal.
But with six minutes gone in the second half, Leeds’ danger man Poleon finished off from close-range to halve the deficit, following a mix-up between the Rams’ defence and ‘keeper Legzdins.
The Rams responded and almost made the game safe through Doyle and Robinson, who both forced excellent reflex stops from Rachubka. However, with just five minutes remaining Nunez ghosted past three defenders and curled the ball past the despairing dive of Legzdins to level the match.
Derby County: Legzdins (GK); Freeman, Gjokaj, Galinski (Thomas 68), Hoganson; Richards, Dawkins, Doyle, Jacobs; Robinson, Bennett.