Max Bardell was delighted to play a key role as Derby County’s Under-23s claimed their first win of the 2021/22 season on Monday evening.
Pat Lyons’ side were 3-1 winners over West Ham United at Loughborough University Stadium to pick up their first points of the Premier League 2 - Division 1 campaign.
Defender Bardell, a first-year professional after two years as a scholar in the Academy, opened the scoring with a glancing header from Dylan Williams’ left-wing free-kick just after the hour mark in an action-packed second half.
Striker Jack Stretton went on to hit a double, with the visitors pulling a goal back inbetween, to secure a deserved victory for Lyons’ side.
Eighteen-year-old Bardell has started all four league games for the Under-23s this term, after making ten last time out, and his goal against the Hammers was his first at Premier League 2 level.
Speaking to RamsTV after Monday’s win, Bardell said: “The goal was a long time coming for me.
“It was a great ball in from Dylan Williams and luckily I managed to get a touch on the ball to make sure it found the bottom corner.
“It was a much-needed goal for us, too. As soon as I got a touch, I felt it had a good chance of going in When I saw it hit the back of the net, it was a relief.”
He added: “The first half was a long one with a few stoppages, which impacted our rhythm, and West Ham had a few chances early in the second half. They had us under the cosh a little bit, so it was relief to give us the lead.”
The Under-23s had started the league campaign with three successive defeats against Brighton & Hove Albion, Leeds United and Everton.
Despite a pointless beginning to the new season the side’s performances merited far more and Bardell believes the squad can take great confidence from picking up three points.
He said: “We’ve had a slow start to the season and some disappointing results, but the performances have been good and improving each week.
“We threw away a two-goal lead in the Premier League Cup tie at Norwich City last week (drew 3-3 after leading 3-1), so it was important we saw this one out.
“We’ve got the three points on the board now and that was important for us. We want to push on now and this win will give us confidence in the upcoming games.”
Next up in Premier League 2 - Division 1 for Derby’s Under-23s is a trip to Tottenham Hotspur, at Stevenage’s Lamex Stadium, on Monday 27th September (7pm kick-off).