Derby County fought to the final whistle, but were forced to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw with Fulham under the lights at Pride Park Stadium.
After a dominating first-half with a handful of chances that couldn’t produce a goal, the Rams took the lead in sensational fashion through Wayne Rooney in his 500th appearance in English football.
The Derby captain stepped up to the penalty spot after a handball by Tim Ream and chipped the ball down the middle of the goal as the Fulham keeper dived.
However, the visitors equalised midway through the half through Aleksandar Mitrovic’s clinical finish. Despite a valiant effort and a fight until the end, the Rams were unable to find the winning goal.
It was a positive start for the Rams under the lights as they piled the pressure on Fulham defence from the opening whistle with Tom Lawrence leading the charge.
The first and second of those opportunities came just after the ten-minute mark after Derby’s pressure in the Fulham half. Max Bird won the ball back on the edge of the box after Graeme Shinnie’s shot was deflected back out to a crowded area. The midfielder fed the ball out to Lawrence who had space in the left side of the box. The winger adjusted and rifled a goal-bound shot which was deflected wide.
Rooney sent the resulting corner to the near post which was cleared back to his feet. He sent the ball back across goal and Lawrence rushed to flick the ball in but Marek made the save.
Back-to-back chances came again the minutes later for the Rams who continued to apply the pressure. Bird fed to Rooney to the left of the area who cut back to Craig Forsyth. The full-back flashed a strong ball across the goal but it had slightly too much power for Martyn Waghorn to direct in.
Just two minutes later, Derby were awarded a free-kick in the middle of the visitor’s half which was sent to Matt Clarke who was open in the left side of the area. He stretched to get his toes on the ball before chasing the ball down by the near post and struck from close range, only to be denied by a great strong save by Rodak.
Fulham’s first opening came after 25 minutes. Anthony Knockaert sent a cross in from the right toward the Championship’s leading scorer, Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the Rams’ centre-backs covered him well and Curtis Davies headed the ball away for Bird and Jason Knight to combine to clear the ball.
Mitrovic had another opportunity from a cross in minutes later, but the close-range header was a comfortable save for Ben Hamer.
Lawrence had one more chance, and his best of the half. The chance was again worked by the Rams’ persistent pressure, this time with Waghorn winning the ball back in Fulham’s half. The ball was worked to Lawrence inside the area and his low effort was palmed wide by Rodak.
Derby deservedly went ahead ten minutes into the second-half. Waghorn looked flicked the ball up in the area and turned, but Tim Ream handballed and Darren Bond blew his whistle for a penalty.
Rooney stepped up to the spot and outrageously chipped the ball down into the middle of the net to break the deadlock.
Fulham looked to quickly level the score when they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box, but Mitrovic’s effort towards the top left corner was saved by Hamer.
Their equaliser came in the 71st minute through Mitrovic. Lawrence did well to block Harry Arter’s initial shot, but the ball deflected to Aboubakar Kamara who crossed in from the right for the striker sweep into the bottom corner.
Derby pushed to end the night with three points and came close in the 83rd minute as Lawrence broke down the middle of the park. Andre Wisdom ran alongside him down the channel and received the ball and flashed it across goal to Rooney who’s effort was deflected over.
Moment’s later, after another fast break, Bird rifled the ball which Rodak batted away and it was sent out for another corner.
In the final minute of normal time, Derby’ best chance to grab the winner came as Rodak clawed the ball away at the last moment as Derby player’s swarmed the back post.
Derby County: Hamer; Wisdom, Davies, Clarke, Forsyth; Bird, Shinnie; Knight (Jozefzoon, 78), Rooney, Lawrence; Waghorn (Marriott, 78)
Unused Subs: Roos, Martin, Lowe, Bogle, Sibley
Fulham: Rodak; Odoi, Hector, Ream, Bryan; Cairney, Johansen (Kamara, 66), Arter (McDonald, 81); Knockaert (Cavaleiro, 66), Mitrovik, Decordova-Reid
Unused Subs: Bettinelli, Kebano, Christie, Sessegnon