ALEX McLeish’s first taste of an East Midlands derby ended with his side earning a valuable point as Nottingham Forest shared the spoils with Derby County at Pride Park on Saturday.
The scrappy encounter produced chances for both sides but it was Forest who took the lead when long-serving midfielder Chris Cohen fired home to give the visitors a half-time lead.
However, the Rams were back in the game soon after the interval, and a well-worked goal from Jamie Ward proved to be crucial as Forest struggled to find a way past Derby keeper Adam Legzdins.
The home side started the game brightly and were immediately on the attack - winning a corner that Reds’ keeper Karl Darlow collected with ease before striker Ward went close for the Rams with a free-kick that deflected wide off the Forest wall.
Derby were pressing well without really making Darlow work in the Forest goal, but it was the visitors that came close to scoring first, as Billy Sharp flicked the ball on to strike partner Simon Cox, whose effort struck the woodwork.
And Reds’ new addition Gonzalo Jara Reyes could have opened his account moments later, but the defender struck his effort over after Cox had done well to lay the ball back to the Chilean international.
But soon after the City Ground outfit did open the scoring. Radi Majewski found space down the right before picking out Cox who headed down for Cohen – the midfielder found the back of the net on his second attempt after his initial effort fell kindly to tap home.
After the goal McLeish’s men attempted to dominate possession and add a second, but Nigel Clough’s players maintained their composure and had some chances of their own – defender John Brayford scuffing an effort just wide of the target before the break.
When the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second period the game continued in much the same vein with both sides struggling to gain a foothold in the match.
And Reds’ frontman Sharp was thwarted by Legzdins early in the half after the former Burton keeper was forced to cut out the striker as Cohen threaded a lovely ball through to send Sharp clear.
Yet, it was a mistake at the other end of the field that saw the Rams level the score shortly after.
Forest midfielder Simon Gillett was caught in possession by Conor Sammon and the lofty striker broke away to play the ball to Ward who struck past Darlow to equalise.
The Reds nearly found a way back into the game when former Arsenal star Henri Lansbury’s long pass found Cox, who sent a dangerous cross into the box that was inches away from the waiting Sharp.
And substitute Dexter Blackstock should have won it for the away side when he found himself unmarked following a Lansbury corner but headed the ball into the ground and over the bar.
Then in the dying moments, Sharp had the ball in the net when his effort deflected in off the post, but the whistle had already gone for an infringement against the forward and the game ended all square.
Forest now sit 10th in the Championship table and are five points adrift of the last play-off position. In their next match they are back at the City Ground on Saturday 26th January to face Watford, who sit in 6th. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Derby County 1 (Ward, 52)
Nottingham Forest 1 (Cohen, 31)
Derby County: Legzdins, Brayford, Keogh, O’Brien, Roberts, Coutts, Hughes, Hendrick, Bryson (Jacobs 78’), Ward (Robinson 67’), Sammon
Nottingham Forest: Darlow, Jara Reyes, Collins (c), Ward, Halford, Gillett (Moussi 68’), Cohen, Majewski (Blackstock 63’), Lansbury, Cox, Sharp
Man of the match: Chris Cohen
Referee: Mark Clattenburg