Sherry McCue’s first half spot-kick turned out to be the only goal to send the four-figure Derby faithful in the East Stand home happy.
Gianna Mitchell had a penalty of her own fired over for Forest early on in the second half after Megan Tinsley was sent off for handling the ball on the line to prevent a certain goal.
Derby County boss Sam Griffiths made two changes from last Sunday’s team against Brighouse Town. McCue and Jade Formaston replaced Kira Rai and Sophie Domingo.
Story of the match
It was Derby who started on the front foot with captain Amy Sims working well down the right on two occasions. First, Precious Hamilton headed low and wide before a cutback for Ellie Gilliatt just a few minutes later was fired over from close range.
The visitors then had their only major chance of the first half when Mitchell had an effort well kept out by Derby goalkeeper Amy Burle at her near post.
The penalty award soon followed. Gilliatt’s cross deflected for Emily Joyce who, after minimal contact, found the referee pointing to the penalty spot. McCue was on hand to dispatch her third goal of the season and send a roar around the Pride Park faithful.
The Reds continued to feel the hosts’ pressure with Gilliatt firing straight at Emily Batty on two occasions before the first 45 minutes drew to a close.
A moment of madness struck eight minutes into the second half. Forest’s Becky Anderson looped an effort towards goal and, after beating Burle, looked destined for the top corner, only for Rams defender Tinsley to deliberately handle the ball on the line and resulted in a sending off.
After Tinsley had stormed back to the changing rooms, Mitchell fired over from the spot to the soundtrack of an elated Derby crowd.
A second half without many clear-cut chances could’ve been settled late on when Ewes substitute Domingo raced beyond Lyndsey Harkin, but couldn’t manage to get enough power on her shot.
With just a minute left on the clock, Derby had another golden chance to kill the game off. Domingo squared the ball to Emelia Wilson, but could only shoot straight at Batty.
The Ewes, a player light for the majority of the second half, saw out the remainder of the game to keep their slim title hopes still alive.
Derby (4-3-3): Burle; Tinsley, Miles, Jackson, Sims (c); McCue, Wilson, Joyce; Gilliatt, Hamilton (Domingo 69), Formaston (May 90). Subs: Ward, Camwell, Rai.
Sent Off: Tinsley.
Nott’m Forest (4-4-2): Batty; Hewitt, Steggles, Harkin, James; Axten (Walters 83), Anderson, Brown, Powell (Wilcock 68); Mitchell (Reynolds 83), Greengrass (Moncaster 56). Subs: Aguirre.
Booked: Mitchell, Steggles.