Darren Bent hopes to return to the Derby County fold sooner than expected as he continues to progress well in his recovery from injury.

The striker suffered a serious hamstring injury in a pre-season friendly against Port Vale and was expected to be out until at least Christmas.

But Bent believes that the strides he has made in recent weeks could see him make an earlier than expected return.

Speaking to RamsTV, he said: “It’s going really well, every day out on the grass is a bonus for me.

“At first it was supposed to be January and I thought I was a long way off but now it looks like it could be sooner.

“Every day I try to put my foot down and work as hard as I can to get myself back fit.”

The 33-year-old admits that his time out of action has taught him to appreciate the less enjoyable side of being a professional footballer.

He added: “Even the running doesn’t bother me. When you’ve been inside on the treatment table for six or seven weeks, the thought of being outside on the grass seems a million miles away, but when you get out there it’s the best feeling.”

Next up for the Rams is the East Midlands derby at Pride Park Stadium for Gary Rowett’s first home game against Nottingham Forest.

Bent started the same fixture last season, which ended in a 3-0 win for the Rams and although he’s disappointed to be watching from the side lines this year, he’s confident of a positive result.

He said: “Last year was a fantastic occasion, we beat them 3-0 at home and it was a brilliant day.

“I think the boys will go into the game full of confidence. It’s a difficult one for the gaffer in terms of selection because there were so many good performances in the second half against Cardiff.

“Chris Martin came on and did well, David Nugent as well and Sam Winnall did well in the first half.

“The atmosphere will be electric and it would have been nice to be a part of it.”