The centre-half, signed on loan from Hull over the summer, headed home four minutes before half-time to preserve Forest's unbeaten record at the City Ground and inflict a first away defeat of the Sky Bet Championship season on Clough's side.
The margin of victory could have been greater than 1-0 had Darius Henderson not fluffed both a second-half header and a late penalty, which was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Lee Grant.
Derby, who had captain Richard Keogh sent off for the challenge on Chris Cohen that resulted in the spot-kick, created very little in way of scoring opportunities but Clough was more than satisfied with his team's overall display.
"I am very pleased with the performance, I thought we were very good," said the Rams boss.
"Once we got the first five or 10 minutes out of the way where they came at us, I thought we settled down and played some very good football.
"We are pleased with a lot of things we did, just not the result.
"Just like at Leicester in the (Capital One) cup in midweek we caused our own downfall again with the goal. We should have cleared the ball first of all and then we lost the man from the corner.
"It is a small mistake but we didn't get away with it and it has cost us the game. Sometimes you get away with things like that but at the moment, with the run we are on, we aren't.
"It is naivety again, we have a lot of young players. We are not getting away with the mistakes we are making and a lot in the opposition penalty area is not going our way either - and we are certainly not getting a lot of breaks from the officials."