PAUL Coutts hit his first goal for Derby County last night to salvage a late draw against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
The Scottish midfielder rifled home three minutes from time to earn the Rams a point from a dire match devoid of entertainment or quality.
Theo Robinson had given Nigel Clough’s men an early lead from the penalty spot but Lukas Jutkiewicz levelled three minutes later after a mistake from Frank Fielding.
And it looked like a second of the night from Jutkiewicz had given Boro all three points before Coutts’ late goal.
So, Clough had to settle for a point but it was a much better result that the Rams normally get at the Riverside, where they have not won in 12 years.
Clough made two changes to the side which beat Forest 1-0.
Jamie Ward, who has been ruled out for three weeks with a hamstring strain, and Conor Sammon, who was rested, were replaced by Nathan Tyson and Robinson.
The opening minutes were fairly even but Derby took the lead when Craig Bryson was unceremoniously chopped down in the box by the agricultural Andre Bikey as he surged onto Jeff Hendrick’s excellent through ball.
Robinson took the penalty and stroked home his third of the season low to Jason Steele’s right.
The lead, however, lasted just three minutes after Fielding’s error.
He failed to hold Grant Leadbitter’s low free kick from 20 yards, given after a Richard Keogh foul, and could only push the ball out for Jutkiewicz to tap in from close range. The Rams keeper will be disappointed with himself.
Boro had the majority of possession for the rest of the half but Derby defended well to keep chances to a minimum.
The best fell to Luke Williams on 38 minutes when he drilled wide after George Friend’s misdirected header fell at his feet 16 yards out on a tight angle.
Robinson had the best Rams opportunity just seconds after Williams had missed the target.
Another good ball from Hendrick found the striker in a yard of space deep in the box, but Steele was off his line rapidly and managed to block his low shot.
Derby came under a lot of pressure in the early stages of the second half, without Fielding being worked by Boro.
Clough changed it just before the hour, bringing off the ineffective Tyson and throwing on Sammon.
Derby almost took Boro to pieces on 68 minutes when Sammon played Bryson in with an excellent ball.
However, when the Scot got the ball to Robinson, he elected to take a touch instead of drilling a first-time shot from 18 yards and got closed down.
Much of the second half was very low on quality, with neither side able to piece together many decent moves.
On 78 minutes, Boro sub Merouanne Zemmama broke the tedium with an exciting run at the Rams back four. But his finish went horribly wide from 18 yards.
However, the forward did much better three minutes later when he set Jutkiewicz up for his second of the night.
Hendrick’s poor, weak headed clearance fell to Zemmama and he crossed for Jutkiewicz to rise above the defence and nod home from six yards.
The young Irishman was immediately hauled off by Clough, while Zemmama limped off after only 15 minutes on the pitch.
Bikey should have made it three on 86 minutes but somehow headed Leadbitter’s teasing free kick wide from four yards.
And he regretted it when Coutts grabbed a late leveller. Sammon got free down the right and despite looking a mile offside, crossed for Bryson, whose shot was blocked. But the ball fell to Coutts and he made space and took a touch before burying it past Steele.
It almost got better for Derby seconds later when Bryson’s cross found Robinson in acres of space at the back post and an open goal to aim at.
But the young striker fired wide in an early candidate for miss of the season.