Derby County started off their Sky Bet Championship campaign with a win over newly-promoted Rotherham courtesy of a single goal from midfielder Jeff Hendrick, who settled things with a stunning strike nine minutes from time.
The Rams dominated possession in the opening period, passing the ball around well and creating a number of good chances, but the Championship new boys were well drilled at the back and worked hard to keep the home side at bay.
Johnny Russell came closest to scoring for Derby when he got on the end of a great Cyrus Christie cross, but his header from six yards was well saved by Rotherham ‘keeper, Adam Collin.
For their lack of possession, the away side created plenty of chances themselves, but struggled to hit the target, calling Lee Grant into action just once, when he made a routine save from a weak Kieran Agard effort.
Derby continued to see more of the ball in the second half, but a resilient Rotherham back line refused to give way and as the half wore on, the players in black and white begun to look increasingly frustrated.
But the Rams frustration was eventually alleviated when Christie, who had been an attacking threat throughout, pulled the ball back for Hendrick and the Ireland international had no hesitation in sweeping a first time curler into the far corner of Rotherham’s net with less than ten minutes to go.
The visitors almost drew level in stoppage time when former Ram Paul Green saw his header saved brilliantly by Grant before Craig Forsyth cleared a close range shot off the line to make sure Hendrick’s goal was enough to secure the Rams’ first three points of the season.
Derby were on the front foot early on as Johnny Russell muscled his way into the box in the opening minute and won a corner for the Rams. Craig Bryson found Chris Martin from the corner, but last season’s top-scorer saw his close range header flash across the face of goal and wide.
Derby stayed on top for much of the opening ten minutes but had to stay alert to deal when a Rotherham breakaway finished with Agard taking aim from the edge of the area, but his shot lacked any power and was easily gathered up by Grant.
A golden opportunity for the Rams’ to break the deadlock came a few minutes later when Craig Forsyth got away from his man on the left-wing and whipped the ball in, but his cross was just inches away from the head of Russell.
It was then Rotherham’s turn to try and open the scoring as Green found himself in space just outside the area, but he pulled his effort well wide of Grant’s right hand post.
Simon Dawkins came close to breaking the deadlock when he hit a curler from 20 yards, but his strike was a whisker away from dropping inside Collin’s far post.
Derby were beginning to step up a gear and came close again, this time through Russell, who met Cyrus Christie’s right wing cross with his head and pulled a spectacular point blank save from Collin.
At the other end, Derby’s defence had to be at their best as a Rotherham corner was met at the near post by the head of Kari Arnason before being cleared off the line.
In the 34th minute, some neat Rams passing found Russell in space, but the winger’s 30-yard effort was straight down the throat of Millers’ ‘keeper, Collin, who made the easy save.
The Millers begun to push forward in the dying minutes of the half winning a number of corners and there was some backs to the wall defending from the Rams’, but they held firm and kept it goalless as Andy D’urso brought the half to a close.
Minutes into the second period, Christie did well to get to the by-line before whipping a ball across the face of goal, but neither Martin or Russell could react quickly enough to touch it in.
Derby were creating chances and getting forward again and again, but the visitors work rate was impressive and the Rams couldn’t find the killer pass to break through the red wall of Rotherham defenders.
With fifteen minutes to go, a chipped ball into the Rotherham area almost found Dawkins at the near post, but he was crowded out by Rotherham defenders and Collin gobbled up the loose ball to frustrate the home side once more.
Derby were finally able to take the lead with just ten minutes to go when Christie broke forward again and pulled the ball back for Hendrick, who hit a first time shot which arced into the top corner of Rotherham’s net.
Rotherham almost drew level in the dying moments of the game when a close range header from Green drew an exceptional save from Lee Grant before Forsyth cleared an Agard shot off the line, but the Rams held on and took maximum points.
Derby County: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Hughes (Mascarell 54’), Hendrick, Bryson, Russell (Ward 64’), Dawkins (Best 79’), Martin.
Substitutes not used: Roos, Eustace, Sammon, Whitbread.
Rotherham United: Collin, Broadfoot, Morgan, Arnason, Skar, Agard, Frecklington, Green, Pringle; Revell (Bowery 58’), Derbyshire (Swift 69’).
Substitutes not used: Loach, Brindley, Wood, Hall, Tidser.
Attendance: 30,105 (2,659 away fans)