Both teams were hoping for a win to boost their chances of making the Championship play-off places but it was Martin O’Neill’s Reds who would win the East Midland Derby, reclaiming the Brian Clough trophy in the process.
The City Ground was a cauldron of noise, excitement and tension all evening and as both teams entered the field, they were given a raucous welcome from all four corners of the stadium.
Both teams will have been looking to make a strong start and set the early tempo and Forest did just that, taking the lead inside the second minute. The Derby defence failed to deal with Joe Lolley’s whipped free kick and Daryl Murphy was able to head the ball towards Yohan Benalouane at the back stick and he forced the ball home to spark scenes of celebration from the Forest faithful.
Derby had failed to lay a glove on Forest for the opening ten minutes however in the 13th minute, they spurned a golden opportunity to take the lead. Martyn Waghorn beat the Forest offside trap to latch on to Holmes’ ball through but up against home ‘keeper Costel Pantilimon, Waghorn failed to find the target as his chipped effort bounced safely wide of the far post.
At the other end, Forest also wasted a brilliant chance to double their advantage. Industrious work from Lolley saw him win the ball high up and he slid the ball across the box for the unmarked Daryl Murphy however the burly forward made a mess of the chance and Kelle Roos was able to gather.
Forest continued to venture forward, and they almost scored again in the 34th minute. Jack Robinson’s pull back from the by-line found Lolley who hit a first-time strike across goal that Ryan Yates charged in to direct just wide of the target.
Derby sent on Florian Jozefzoon at half time in the place of Tom Huddlestone and the tricky winger almost made an immediate impact, cutting side onto his right foot and unleashing an effort which Pantilimon tipped over his bar.
The visiting side suffered a blow in the 53rd minute as they lost Andy King to injury and seconds later, Joe Lolley almost rubbed salt in their wounds but his curled effort went just wide of the target.
With over an hour gone, Derby were starting to get bit of joy from proceedings, but they were still struggling to break down Forest’s defence and Pantilimon remained largely untested in the home goal.
Adlene Guedioura was introduced by Forest in the 71st minute and he had a chance shortly after coming on however his driven effort was blocked well by the outstretched body of Derby’s Richard Keogh.
Derby were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position and with time running out, they could have done with something special. However, Waghorn’s effort was straight at Pantilimon and the big Romanian held easily.
The Rams continued to push for an equaliser and when Holmes’ cross was punched up in the air by Pantilimon, it looked like they have had an opportunity to do so however Bradley Johnson failed to keep his volley down, thumping the ball over the bar.
The final whistle brought scenes of jubilation from the near 30,000 in attendance as Forest celebrated a crucial victory.
FOREST XI (4-1-4-1): Pantilimon (GK); Darikwa, Benalouane, Milosevic, Robinson; Watson C (Guedioura 71’); Lolley, Colback, Yates, Osborn (Wague 90’); Murphy (Bonatini 85’)
SUBS NOT USED: Steele (GK), Carvalho, Goncalves, Pele
DERBY COUNTY XI: Roos (GK), Tomori, Keogh C, Wilson (Bennett 71’), Waghorn, Marriott, Holmes, King (Johnson 53’), Cole, Bogle, Huddlestone (Jozefzoon 46’)
SUBS NOT USED: Carson (GK), Wisdom, Nugent, Malone
REFEREE: Robert Jones
ATTENDANCE: 29,421 (2,000 away)
FOREST MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Joe Lolley