Martyn Waghorn announced his return to the Derby County fold in the best possible fashion in Friday night’s local derby encounter at Nottingham Forest.
The striker, making his first start of the campaign after recovering from a calf injury, fired Derby into the lead midway through the first-half with a fine free-kick from distance.
The 30-year-old’s strike found the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar to open his account for the campaign.
Derby ultimately had to settle for a 1-1 draw across Brian Clough Way, as Forest’s Lyle Taylor equalised early in the second period from close range.
Waghorn, who scored 12 times for Derby last term, was delighted to find the back of the net against the Reds and was also pleased to play his part in Phillip Cocu’s side getting a point on their travels.
“I caught it well,” Waghorn told RamsTV after the game when discussing his goal.
“The way the wall was lined up, I saw the goalkeeper was quite central in the goal, so I thought he was going to take a big step to cover the wall side. Thankfully, he did.
“I caught the strike well and it went in with a bit of pace. It seems to look better when the ball hits the bar and bounces down and back up!
“It was a nice way to start the game, we played some very good stuff in the opening stages and to get the goal and go in front was important for us.
“It was pleasing personally to get that, but as a whole team it was the way we needed to start the game and I thought we started it very brightly.”
On Derby’s performance, he added: “We have a lot of positives to build on.
“We were very solid, worked hard as a team, were a good unit and did not give Forest too much space. We worked very hard on that and we limited them to very few chances.”
Derby’s start to the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season has been a slow burner.
Four points have been recorded from their opening seven games, but their performances in recent weeks have been drastically improved.
With the likes of Waghorn and Tom Lawrence back from injury, and Jordon Ibe and Krystian Bielik closing in on their own returns too, the Rams’ squad is looking stronger and healthier by the week.
Waghorn felt Derby’s performance against Forest was another step in the right direction for the squad moving forward.
“This was a really good opportunity for us as a team to show what we are all about,” he said.
“We have got a great squad. We have touched on it a few times in years gone by, but this group have a real hunger to work hard for each other.
“I think that showed with the grittiness and determination and not to allow their players to get good opportunities and to get into good attacking areas ourselves as well.”
Derby face Cardiff City at Pride Park on Wednesday in their next game and Waghorn added: “The games are coming thick and fast and it is up to us to build on tonight.
“We have another big game coming up in midweek and we’ll be ready to go again.”