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Sam Winnall is hoping that he has risen to Gary Rowett’s challenge and pushed himself closer to a first team start ahead of the back-to-back away games that loom this week.

The 26-year-old made an immediate impact off the substitutes bench on Saturday and scored with his first touch to get the Rams’ equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Birmingham City.

That goal was his fifth in just four Sky Bet Championship matches against the Blues inside a year – all of which have been headers!

Saturday’s goal may have been the fifth, but it was probably his sweetest as he opened up his Derby goalscoring account just three weeks into his season-long loan spell from Sheffield Wednesday on Transfer Deadline Day.

“It’s nice to get off the mark,” Winnall told RamsTV. “It takes some of the pressure off because as a striker you want to get that first goal early.

“It was a great header from Keysey (Richard Keogh) across goal and that just left me the easy job of finishing it off.

“I seem to score quite a few headed goals against Birmingham. That’s my fifth in less than a year and they have all been headers!

“That’s quite strange, but as long I keep scoring then I will be happy. It’s a shame we just couldn’t quite find the winner. It was one of those games where we just couldn’t quite break them down.”

Derby boss, Rowett, has now said that Winnall is in prime position to make his first start for the club.

The forward has praised the manager’s honesty when it has come to him having to bide his time.

Now, though, Winnall is hoping he has given Rowett one almighty headache ahead of trips to Brentford tonight and then Cardiff City on Saturday.

“All you can ask for as a player is for your manager to be honest,” he said. “He was honest with me from the word go and said I just had to be patient and I would get my chance.

“I would like to think that I did that on Saturday and hopefully I have pushed myself closer to that first start.

“I’m glad I could come on help the team on Saturday. I hope I can do that more often over the course of the season.

“I’m sure the boss will pick a team that is best suited to winning both of these games. We want to be able to do that. We have to do that this week.”

Winnall has also given us his take on the two matches that lie ahead before the next international break.

He believes that both teams pose two very different kind of threats to the Rams.

Winnall said: “Both teams pose different threats. Brentford are a more free-flowing football kind of team.

“Cardiff are a bit more dogged, rugged and a team that has the ability to grind out a result.

“At the moment it is working for them and I’m sure Brentford will turn their fortunes around, especially off the back of that win (over Bolton Wanderers on Saturday).

“Both games will be difficult, but we firmly believe that we can get positive results from both of them.”

Pos Pld GD Pts
18 Barnsley 8 -1 7
19 Queens Park Rangers 8 -4 7
20 Nottingham Forest 8 -5 6
21 Derby County 8 -8 5
22 Coventry City 8 -10 5
23 Wycombe Wanderers 8 -13 1
24 Sheffield Wednesday 8 -4 -4
View full table