Ahead of their first game of the season, Kellan Gordon has delivered a defiant message from the Derby County Under-23s camp.

‘We don’t want to find ourselves in the position that we did last year’

Heading into 2017, Darren Wassall’s side resided at the foot of the Premier League 2 Division 1 table, but beat the drop thanks to an impressive upturn in fortunes over 2017.

“Last season, we didn’t have the best of starts, but we don’t want to find ourselves in that position again where we are having to fight to stay up,” Gordon recalled.

“We have got the players to do it again. We have got the ability and now we have to make it happen.

“It’s a tough start, but we’re in this division for the hard games and to play against the best players around. We’re ready for what’s to come.

“We know we can win these kind of games – we proved that last season – so there’s no reason why we cannot start well.”

It all starts on Monday evening with a home clash with Arsenal at St George’s Park, kick-off: 7pm.

Wassall’s men head into it in good nick after a solid pre-season campaign in which the Rams have maintained their end of season form in term of results.

Something else that catches the eye is the amount of goals that has been scored.

Derby’s Under-23s have scored 18 goals in just seven games and whilst Gordon feels Derby’s Under-23s are ‘clicking’ well, he says it is important they prove that’s the case against a strong Arsenal side – who Darren Wassall rated as the best team his team faced over the 2016/17 season.

He said: “I scored three goals myself over pre-season. It might not be worth points at the moment, but it is still nice to still be contributing to the team, but I feel like we are playing well heading into this first game.

“We’ve put ourselves in a good position going into it and we have scored plenty of goals along the way.

“It seems to be clicking, we’re playing well and now the aim is to take that into a tough first game of the season against Arsenal.

“This is what we have been working towards over the last five or six weeks.

“It’s always a battle with Arsenal. They have got good players, but so have we. What we have got across the group is a lot of hard work and desire and that’s going to be important against a good side like that.”