Nottingham Forest 1 Derby County 0
Wayne Rooney’s appearance on the Derby training ground last week is said to have lifted ailing spirits, but the benefits of having the former England captain as a practice partner did not help his new team-mates on the pitch as their poor away form continued.
Derby contributed plenty to an energetic East Midlands derby but shot themselves in the foot when an individual error handed Forest the chance to take the points. Phillip Cocu’s side are still without a win on the road since the opening day of the season.
Jayden Bogle, the visitors’ 19-year-old right-back, was the player looking for somewhere to hide amid the derby-day cauldron. As Derby went about their customary practice of playing out from the back, goalkeeper Kelle Roos rolled the ball to Curtis Davies. He, in turn, relayed it along the flank to Bogle, who probably intended to ferry it sideways to Krystian Bielik.
But he was too casual, with the result that Lewis Grabban was able to intercept its path and take full advantage of a free shot at goal, tucking the ball into the bottom corner.
Grabban is currently unrivalled as a Championship goalscorer, with 80 goals at this level in six seasons, four more than any other player in that period. He was not likely to pass up such an inviting opportunity.
“It was a gift for me and a gift for the fans,” Nottingham Forest manager Sabri Lamouchi said, on his 48th birthday. “We didn’t start the game in the right way,” he added. “We created some chances in the first half, but more in the second. We deserved the victory. It was a fantastic result and I’m so proud and so happy for the players and the fans.”
The result maintains a solid foothold in the top six for his team, where they have been for most of the past seven weeks. Their football is based around a no-nonsense approach at the back and exploiting the power of Grabban and the pace of wide players, in this case Joe Lolley and Matt Cash on the right, balanced by Sammy Ameobi on the left.
Ameobi was outstanding and was unlucky not to score twice, unleashing shots with the right foot and then the left as he cut inside, both beaten away with some relief by Roos.
The performance of the match, though, came from Tiago Silva, the Portuguese midfielder, who dazzled with his footwork as he pulled the strings for the home side.
Much as the home fans celebrated, a neutral would not have seen a point for Derby as an unjust outcome. They had almost scored first, Brice Samba pulling off an excellent save from a deflected Tom Lawrence shot in the opening five minutes.
There were periods thereafter when they had to weather heavy Forest pressure, especially towards the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second. Yet they finished on the front foot.
“One bad pass, one bad decision cost us,” Derby manager Cocu said. “The lads did a good job. Most of the game we played very well and they had difficulty in finding a solution to stop us.
“It’s a difficult moment for Jayden, because he feels that he let his team down. But now the job for the team is to support him, pick him up, help him. He has to learn from it and go on. I think we deserved more, but I think as a team we are improving.”
Rooney does not start officially until January in his capacity as player-coach, but he is likely to make regular appearances on the training pitch before then. In a tight division, even though Derby are in the bottom half of the table, they have the potential to make a challenge. Cocu’s hope is that when Rooney can make his presence felt on the field, that potential is still there.
Nottingham Forest: Samba, Cash, Tobias Figueiredo, Worrall, Yuri Ribeiro, Watson, Lolley (Adomah, 85), Yates, Tiago Silva (Johnson, 90), Ameobi (Joao Carvalho, 72), Grabban.
Subs not used: Mir, Robinson, Chema, Muric.
Booked: Watson, Adomah, Grabban.
Goal: Grabban (56).
Derby County: Roos, Bogle, Davies, Clarke (Evans, 15), Lowe, Shinnie (Waghorn, 84), Bielik, Marriott, Holmes (Paterson, 74), Lawrence, Martin.
Subs not used: Wisdom, Dowell, Jozefzoon, Hamer.
Booked: Bogle, Bielik, Lawrence.
Referee: Darren England (South Yorkshire).