Derby began the match level on points with Championship leaders Bournemouth and Forest came into the game with only two wins from their previous 20 games.
Although Forest had an early claim for a penalty when Jake Buxton wrestled with Michail Antonio in the Derby box, the Reds played with fear in their boots for the first half an hour and were fortunate they trailed only to Henri Lansbury’s own goal. The midfielder headed Johnny Russell’s corner past his own goalkeeper.
The anxiety of red shirts was visible as Derby piled on the pressure looking to add a second but they couldn’t make their dominance count further. Will Hughes coming the closest with dipping left-footed shot from the right-hand side of the area.
Forest offered little in the first half other than a tame Antonio effort straight at Lee Grant and a skewed half-volley by centre-half Jack Hobbs.
With Will Hughes, the Derby playmaker, withdrawn at half-time with thigh and ankle injuries, the Reds began to show their fighting spirit Stuart Pearce had called for. Gary Gardner started making his talent tell and Forest’s deserved breakthrough finally arrived 15 minutes from time.
No-one in the Derby defence took command of the situation and the ball trickled through a sea of legs to Assombalonga, who spun and shot past Grant from inside the six-yard box. The Rams had lost their way and continued to struggle and cope with balls into their box as Forest continued to put Derby under pressure.
Derby’s usual short close passing style was no where to be seen and the introduction of Darren Bent did little to lift Derby as they continued to send misplaced long balls up field with the hope of someone getting on the end as they did against Ipswich the week before. It was clear to see the holding midfield position wasn’t being bossed with Mascarell replacing Eustace who looks likely to be out for the remainder of the season the return of George Thorne can’t come soon enough for Derby.
There was a further twist to this East Midlands derby as Forest were not done yet. They felt they could win the match – and they were right. Osborn led an injury-time break down the left before thundering a shot past Grant from the edge of the box. Stuart Pearce couldn’t hide his delight as he ran onto the pitch celebrated like he had when he scored his penalty in Euro 96.
Will this be the turning point the Reds needed to turn their season around?