Rasiak exposes Forest priorities

Nottingham Forest 2 - Derby County 2
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The Independent Online

The City Ground will be sold out for Wednesday's fifth-round Cup replay with Tottenham but with a fixture of this nature by way of preparation, not to mention an increasingly desperate battle to avoid relegation, there was never any danger that Forest would be distracted, even with the prize of a quarter-final trip to Newcastle awaiting the winners.

The City Ground will be sold out for Wednesday's fifth-round Cup replay with Tottenham but with a fixture of this nature by way of preparation, not to mention an increasingly desperate battle to avoid relegation, there was never any danger that Forest would be distracted, even with the prize of a quarter-final trip to Newcastle awaiting the winners.

Still with a six-point deficit to close if they are to preserve their Championship status, the Forest players had been told in manager Gary Megson's most forcible terms that the performance that earned them a 1-1 draw in London a week ago should not cross their minds for a second as they set about this struggle for vital points and local bragging rights.

All square at half-time, they had those rights in their grasp for nine minutes during the second half but after Derby striker Grzegorz Rasiak had headed his second goal of the afternoon the end result was a fair one.

One point only reaffirmed Megson's conviction that the FA Cup is largely an irrelevance, in the context of the job he has undertaken at the City Ground.

"You can't decry the Cup," he said. "A performance such as the players produced at Tottenham was good for confidence. But in our present predicament a replay means playing another game, with more scope for injuries, when your rivals are getting a rest."

Indeed, a plucky Cup run will count for little if Forest are plying their regular trade in League One next year.

A goal behind after 11 minutes, they needed a penalty to draw level and though Gareth Taylor headed them in front with 21 minutes remaining, Derby were good value for their point and remain in fourth place. Given that their East Midlands rivals had won six away games in a row before this, Forest could hardly complain.

Kris Commons, whose performance at White Hart Lane was a major factor in forcing Wednesday's replay, threatened Derby several times with his clever turns and the accuracy of his shooting. He knows how to win a free-kick, too, and when he wriggled into Derby's penalty area with three white shirts at close quarters the upshot was no real surprise, Mo Konjic adjudged to have tripped him.

This was a Forest not recognisable from the one Derby had swept aside with embarrassing ease at Pride Park in December, when Joe Kinnear upset supporters by dismissing the occasion as "just another game".

Nothing they did was ever pretty but after new signing Scott Dobie, still a Millwall player on Friday but now setting the tone for a fighting Forest performance, had twice gone close, Taylor's diving header from Commons' corner put them in front.

Derby have not put themselves in promotion contention without some spirit of their own, however, and Rasiak headed them level again 13 minutes from time.

In relation to Wednesday's game, the result probably favours Tottenham. On the back of a victory, Forest might have felt able to set their worries to one side. Instead, one suspects their focus will be on Championship business at Leicester next Saturday.

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