Rob Hulse headed Derby County to victory against their arch-rivals Nottingham Forest at Pride Park. The striker scored the only goal of the game as the Rams earned themselves a 1-0 victory to get their hands back on the Brian Clough Trophy.
It was the inform Forest who went into the match as favourites and they had the first chance through Welsh striker Robert Earnshaw. The former Derby man swivelled onto a bouncing ball inside the area but his strike was headed clear by Rob Hulse.
After that it was Derby who began to dominate, backed by a full house at Pride Park the home side belied their position in the table to cause Forest problems. The Rams looked particularly dangerous from set pieces and could have taken the lead on three occasions. Stephen Pearson had the first opportunity for Derby, a Kris Commons corner was header clear by the Forest defence but only as far as Pearson who fired goalwards but his shot sailed just wide of the near post.
Minutes later and Derby had another chance, Commons delivered another corner from the right and this time Jake Buxton rose above his marker to send a looping header goalwards. Lee Camp in the Forest goal was nearly beaten but managed to back-peddle and tip the ball over the bar. In a crazy couple of minutes Derby had another chance from another corner. This time it was Lee Johnson who delivered a corner from the left, his looping ball found Shaun Barker unmarked. The central defenders header looked destined for the bottom corner but Camp made a superb diving save to tip the ball around the post.
The home side remained in control of the half but were unable to force Camp into further action. Derby pressed Forest players all over the pitch and this tactic worked for Nigel Clough’s men as it stopped the visitors playing. The fast pace of an East Midlands derby led to the play being a bit scrappy, with little quality on show but in truth that benefited Derby as they pushed for an opening goal. Unfortunately they were unable to break the deadlock and the two sides were level at half time.
Forest began the second half much better; Radoslaw Majewski was becoming more and more influential as the visitors looked to play their passing game. It was a mazy dribble from the Pole that created Forest first chance of the half. He drifted past Nicky Hunt and Shaun Barker down Derby’s right side, he then got into the area and pulled the ball back for Paul Anderson who effortlessly cleared the ball as though he was a Derby defender!
The second half was much more even and it was Forest who had the next chance. Striker Dexter Blackstock saw his header well saved by Bywater and from the rebound Anderson headed wide.
Derby slowly started to get back into the match and their constant pressure began to pay dividends. Another series of corners saw chances for Buxton and Commons but neither were able to test Camp and force him into a save.
In the 76th minute though Derby broke the deadlock. Running down the right wing substitute Gary Teale was brought down by full back James Perch, Commons took the resulting free kick and found Hulse who powered his header home. The 30,000 Rams fans erupted and an unlikely victory looked on.
The goal sprang Forest in action and although they threw everything at Derby Stephen Bywater wasn’t properly tested.
In the 93rd minute the now customary 22 man brawl took place when McEveley refused to give Gunter the ball for a throw-in. There were a lot of handbags exchanged by players and coaching staff before the original offenders were both booked.
The match resumed for the final minute before referee Mr Swanbrick blew the final whistle to return the East Midlands bragging rights back to Derby.
While a 1-0 victory looks like a close game, on this occasion it doesn’t paint a fair impression of the match. Derby were excellent from start to finish and put in a proper performance which showed that they have got the quality to do well in this division. Going into the match Forest were the in-form side, they were unbeaten in 19 games and had been unbeaten away from home since March, but Derby stopped them playing and made them look a very ordinary side.
Central defenders Shaun Barker and Jake Buxton kept Robert Earnshaw, Dexter Blackstock and substitute Dele Adebola very quiet. It was an impressive performance from Derby’s current central defensive line-up and they will be hoping for an injury-free run in the team to build on this clean sheet.
In midfield captain Robbie Savage and Lee Johnson hustled and harried Paul Mckenna and didn’t give him any time to control proceedings.
Up front Rob Hulse lead the line superbly, he was a handful for Morgan all match and his strike partner Commons looked very lively, albeit a bit short of full match fitness.
Derby should be spurred on by this victory and use the momentum to push themselves back up the table. Although “form goes out of the window in derby matches” Derby should not forget that they beat the team who were second in the table and seen by many as a favourite for promotion.