Nottingham Forest’s unbeaten start to the season continued with a 1-1 draw in this afternoon’s East Midlands derby.
Britt Assombalonga had The City Ground rocking when he fired Forest into a second-half lead but Ryan Shotton’s scruffy equaliser, initially credited to Leon Best, earned The Rams a share of the spoils.
Stuart Pearce named an unchanged line-up from the one which earned victory at Sheffield Wednesday before the international break.
Kelvin Wilson was named in the squad for the first time this season, taking his place on the bench alongside the likes of Jamie Paterson and Robert Tesche.
The game got off to a ferocious start, Chris Cohen spinning brilliantly in the middle before passing the ball to Henri Lansbury on his right. The former Arsenal man took the ball across field before scuffing a low shot towards Lee Grant.
Derby’s response was immediate yet significantly less convincing, John Eustace blazing the ball horribly wide and bringing a brief moment of calm to a frenzied start to the match.
Eustace found himself in the book five minutes later after clattering Cohen with a late lunge, but Derby had a free-kick of their own on ten minutes when Will Hughes was fouled in a dangerous position. Karl Darlow looked unconcerned as Johnny Russell guided the ball wide.
Cohen had produced a number of solid performances since returning from his second serious knee injury in the summer, but there was concern for the captain on 15 minutes when he hobbled straight down the tunnel to be replaced by Tesche.
With the atmosphere temporarily subdued the game hit a lull with both sides struggling to impart their undoubted quality on proceedings.
The next opportunity came when Reid won a free-kick on the edge of Derby’s area. The Irishman sent the ball into the box before a series of deflections took it behind for a corner, which Derby dealt with.
Michail Antonio’s pace had been too much for Rams right back Ryan Shotton to handle, and on the half-hour mark the Stoke City loanee clipped the Reds winger down the left. Lansbury took charge of the free-kick, blasting the ball low off the wall and out for a throw-in.
It had been a half of few clear-cut chances but The Rams had a good opportunity to test Darlow on 35 minutes when Craig Bryson won a free-kick from Jack Hobbs. The midfielder curled the ball round the wall but Darlow dealt with it comfortably.
Derby continued to press and Forest right back Jack Hunt had to be alert to get to the ball first when Russell looked the most likely to meet a dangerous cross from the right.
Reid, who had earlier been booked but was also exhibiting signs of a knock, was replaced by Ben Osborn on 43 minutes.
With Forest cursing their injury luck, the spotlight shifted on to referee Paul Tierney when Eustace committed his second cynical foul of the game after Lansbury had spun away from him. Despite calls from the sell-out crowd for a second yellow card, Mr Tierney let the midfielder off with a warning. Lansbury’s cross into the box was met by Assombalonga, who could only head the ball over under pressure.
Four minutes were added at the end of a disjointed half and Forest pressed in an attempt to break the deadlock. Space opened up for Tesche in the middle, who produced a great strike but could only watch on as the ball flew just wide with Grant at full stretch.
Lansbury, playing just off Assombalonga, had two half-chances before the half was out, first sending the ball high over the bar with a cross-cum-shot after Antonio had been fouled by Shotton, before he benefited from excellent hold-up play by Assombalonga. The striker held off Jake Buxton and offloaded the ball to Lanbsury who flicked it into space. On the run, he tried to control his shot with outside of boot but miscued, sending the ball wide of Grant’s near post.
There were no changes for either side at the break but the visitors began on the front foot, drawing a foul and a booking from Osborn within two minutes of the restart. Chris Martin blazed the ball high over the bar with the subsequent free-kick and generated similar altitude with a first-time effort seven minutes later.
Buxton was in the book on 57 minutes after clearing out Lansbury, but it was the latter’s turn moments later when he caught Will Hughes.
Forest threatened for the first time in the second half when Antonio cut in from the left on the hour. He struck the ball fiercely towards goal from the edge of the area but Grant showed excellent handling to hold on to it.
There was nothing the keeper could do on 71 minutes, however, when Assombalonga handed Forest the lead. Antonio dropped into the middle, received the ball and burst into space. He played it to Assombalonga who spun his man in the area, appearing to slip in the process. But he quickly composed himself to pass the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
It could have been two four minutes later when Hunt whipped the ball dangerously into the area from the right. Somehow it went all the way through to Antonio at the back post who, perhaps surprised the ball had reached him, could only head it wide from six yards.
Forest were pressing for a second but were almost caught out when The Rams broke through Hughes. The distinctive midfielder slipped Best into the area but Darlow spread himself brilliantly to turn the ball away.
But Derby weren’t to be denied when the ball was swung into the area. Richard Keogh hit the bar with a header and a scramble ensued before Shotton managed to turn the ball home from close range.
Both sides were scrapping furiously to get into the ascendancy but Forest were given a boost when Buxton’s decision to delay The Reds’ taking of a free-kick led to a second yellow for the centre back.
Derby managed to clear the immediate danger and broke dangerously through Forsyth. The full back got all the way into the area before firing the ball straight at Darlow.
After a half of many stoppages, eight minutes were added on, the first of which saw Lars Veldwijk replace Osborn as Pearce pushed for a dramatic winner.
Tesche had a chance to claim it, receiving a cut-back from Antonio but failing to control his first-time effort, sending the ball high over the bar.
Forest had one final chance to win it after Antonio’s shot was diverted behind for a corner. Assombalonga got his head to the subsequent delivery but could only direct the ball straight at Grant, ending the match on a frustrating note for the hosts.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Mancienne, Hobbs, Hunt, Antonio, Cohen (Tesche 15'), Reid (Osborn 43' (Veldwijk 90')), Lansbury, Burke, Assombalonga
Subs not used: De Vries, Wilson, Fox, Paterson
Scorer: Assombalonga 71'
Booked: Reid 38', Osborn 47', Lansbury 59', Burke 80'
: Grant, Forsyth, Bryson (Ibe 76'), Buxton, Keogh, Dawkins, Martin, Russell (Best 69'), Eustace (Calero 76'), Hughes, Shotton
Subs not used: Christie, Whitbread, Roos, Mascarell
Scorer: Shotton 80'
Booked: Eustace 7', Buxton 57'
Sent off: Buxton 87'
Referee: Paul Tierney
Attendance: 30,227 (1,947 away)