Former Derby trainee Marcus Tudgay fast-tracked himself to City Ground fame last night with two first-half goals on only his second appearance, as Forest earned East Midlands bragging rights to move within one point of the Championship play-off places, their emphatic victory completed in stoppage time when Rob Earnshaw, another ex-Derby striker, drove home his second of the night.
Forest had enjoyed a perfect start, going ahead after 90 seconds when the centre-half Luke Chambers headed home Radoslaw Majewski's corner. Although Derby equalised, poor defending let them down in a fifth straight defeat, after which their manager, Nigel Clough, could not conceal his anger at what he plainly considered a humiliation on his former stamping ground.
Clough pulled no punches, singling out Dean Leacock and Paul Green, two of his more experienced players, for a lack of commitment. "It is those players you expect to be showing the way for the younger ones but they gave us absolutely nothing," he said. "It is a derby – you show some courage, put your foot in. You've either got it or you haven't and they can't really hide."
Luke Moore's leveller after 15 minutes – a well-judged chip that went in off a post – suggested a closer contest. But once Forest were back in front there was only one likely winner.
Earnshaw was the provider this time, taking out the Derby captain, Shaun Barker, with sharp footwork on the right of the penalty area before delivering a cleverly weighted cross, which Tudgay – on loan pending a £500,000 transfer from Sheffield Wednesday – headed in off the underside of the bar, referee Anthony Bates signalling a goal on the nod of his assistant.
The goal settled Forest, with recuperating Aaron Ramsey showing glimpses of quality on the first start of his loan from Arsenal, and they extended their lead in first-half stoppage time when Tyson's cross from the left was nodded in by Tudgay despite the attentions of two Derby defenders.
A fourth Forest goal after 53 minutes, when Earnshaw converted a low cross from the impressive Nathan Tyson, effectively left Derby with no way back. Kris Commons – reviled at the City Ground since leaving Forest for Derby in 2008 – offered a glimmer of hope when his free-kick found a way through Forest's defensive wall, but the home side's nerve was never properly tested and frustrations came to the fore when coach Johnny Metgod, another with a Forest past, was dismissed from the technical area after arguing with officials.
Nottingham Forest (4-1-2-3) Camp; Gunter, Morgan, Chambers, Bertrand (Cohen 38); Moussi; Ramsey (Wilson 60), Majewski; Tudgay, Earnshaw, Tyson (Anderson 79). Substitutes not used McGugan, Adebola, McCleary, Smith (gk).
Derby County (4-2-3-1) Bywater; Leacock, Barker, Brayford, Moxey; Bailey, Green; Cywka (Davies 83), Bueno (Porter 73), Commons; Moore. Substitutes not used Pearson, Deeney (gk), Pringle, Addison, Doyle.
Referee A Bates (Staffordshire).