Matej Vydra’s seventh Sky Bet Championship goal of the season earned a valuable point as Gary Rowett’s Derby County battled to a 1-1 draw against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
The Rams were forced to soak up pressure early on and they fell behind to Oliver Norwood’s brilliant first half free-kick, but Vydra supplied the crucial equaliser just five minutes into the second half after great work by Tom Lawrence.
David Nugent did his best to try and stretch the Fulham backline from the first whistle and he came close to latching onto Tomas Kalas’ loose header, but David Button was quick to react.
Scott Carson had to be at his best with 14 minutes gone,as he produced a superb stop down to his left from Floyd Ayite’s header, which came from a pinpoint Norwood cross.
The Northern Ireland international then had two efforts from free-kicks and after the first was handballed in the wall by David Nugent, he made no mistake with the second try, firing high past Carson to make it 1-0 on the half hour mark.
The Rams were comfortably second best throughout the first period, but they responded in perfect style immediately after the break.
Lawrence, fresh from scoring his second international goal in midweek, cut in from the right-hand side and slipped a lovely ball through to Vydra who calmly lifted the ball past Button for the equaliser just five minutes into the second half.
Derby looked like a different side and it took a great stop from Button six minutes later to keep the scores level as Nugent raced through on goal.
Fulham substitute Luca de la Torre went close to giving his side the lead for the second time when he leapt to meet Ayite’s cross, but he sent his looping header over the bar with 65 minutes on the clock.
Rowett’s side had to hold on as the game entered the closing stages as the home side tested the Rams will a series of crosses, with the closest effort coming from Ayite who fired well over from the centre of the penalty area.
The hosts continued to press but they couldn’t find a winner, and the draw means that Derby have now gone five away league games unbeaten for the first time since October 2015.
Fulham: Button; Fredericks, Kalas, Ream, Odoi; Norwood, Edun (de la Torre, 64’), Cairney; Ayite, Fonte (Kamara, 60’), R. Sessegnon.
Substitutes not used: Bettinelli, Soares, S. Sessegnon, Cisse, Kait.
Derby County: Carson; Baird, Keogh, Davies, Forsyth; Huddlestone, Ledley; Lawrence (Russell, 79’), Vydra (Martin, 72’), Johnson (Weimann, 72’); Nugent.
Substitutes not used: Mitchell, Pearce, Hanson, Winnall.
Derby struggled in the first half and they needed some inspiration after the break, and it was provided by the combination of Lawrence and Vydra.
The Wales international weaved his way through on the edge of the Fulham box and played a deft ball through to the unmarked Vydra, who turned swiftly and finished clinically to bag a vital leveller.
Joe Ledley is yet to taste defeat in a Derby shirt and that continued here, as the Wales midfielder returned from injury to produce a typically assured display in the centre of the park.
The Rams spent large parts of the game out of possession, with Ledley and Tom Huddlestone proving to be a stubborn barrier in front of the defence.
When in possession, he demonstrated his quality time and time again, hardly giving the ball away as Derby looked to start attacking moves.
The Rams face a testing schedule as we approach the end of November, with Rowett’s side up against Queens Park Rangers at Pride Park Stadium on Tuesday night (21st November).
Next Saturday (25th November), Derby travel to the Riverside Stadium to take on Middlesbrough, before another midweek fixture against Ipswich Town on the following Tuesday (28th November).