Krystian Bielik was pleased to reach a significant hurdle in his rehabilitation programme last week as he continued to edge closer towards a return to the Derby County fold.

Bielik recently returned to full training after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Derby’s 1-0 home win over Bristol City just under a year ago.

The injury was a big blow for Bielik after he had sustained the same injury 12 months previously, whilst in action for the Rams’ Under-23s after serving a three-match suspension, and he had produced some impressive displays for Wayne Rooney’s side.

After progressing through his rehabilitation programme with Derby’s skilled medical team in the last year, the next stage saw him return to a match situation at the end of last week.

Bielik got 45 minutes under his belt as the Rams’ Under-23s played out a 1-1 draw against Arsenal in Premier League 2 - Division 1 on Friday night at Loughborough University Stadium.

The Poland international came through the run-out unscathed and he was delighted to make another big step in the right direction - but he is aware that he must be patient as he continues to build up his sharpness and confidence after a lengthy spell out of action.

“It was unbelievable to be honest; 12 months has been a while,” he told RamsTV afterwards. “I was glad to get a big 45 minutes under my belt and I needed that. I am so happy that I am back and now I am looking forward to playing in another game.

“With the more matches I play; it will give me more confidence in my head and my body as well. There is obviously a lot in my head after so long out, so I need to keep going and be positive.

“Training sessions are good, but they are in a safe environment because everyone has been careful with me after a long-term injury. When you get into a proper game situation, it really tests you out and I had a few challenges from Arsenal’s players in those 45 minutes.

“The knee feels fine; it felt a bit heavy towards the end of the half, but it has been a while since I played so it is about getting used to it all again. It was brilliant for me.”

Bielik, who turned 24 this month, joined Derby at the beginning of the 2019/20 season from Arsenal and has made 34 appearances for the club and scored on two occasions.

With the Rams fighting to retain their Championship status following a 21-point deduction this season, Bielik is relishing the prospect of helping his team-mates on the pitch in the second half of the campaign.

Despite his eagerness to return, he knows it is important not to rush himself back too soon.

He said: “Especially with the position we are as a club, I just want to get back out on the pitch with the boys and help them.

“Being in the stands for most of the time has been hard, it has been painful to be honest.

“I am trying to be back as soon as I can be, but people are telling me not to rush. That is easy to say, I want to be out there, but it is important to follow that process after 12 long months.

“My goal now is to get more minutes and then be in a position to fight for my place in the squad.”