Jamie Ward ready to answer call against rivals Nottingham Forest
DERBY County forward Jamie Ward says he is ready to start against arch rivals Nottingham Forest this weekend.
Ward has not begun a first-team match since the 1-0 win over Forest at the City Ground at the end of September.
The 26-year-old suffered a torn hamstring an hour into the game, resulting in a lengthy lay-off.
Ward's initial comeback from injury against Charlton Athletic just after Christmas proved short-lived.
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But the Northern Ireland international came through more than half of Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Brighton after being called upon by manager Nigel Clough to replace the injured Will Hughes.
"Getting 45 minutes at Brighton was a bonus for me ahead of the Forest game," said Ward.
"I'd like to think I'll at least be on the bench this weekend.
"I feel ready for a start. It's just a case of being confident in the body.
"We'll see how it goes – the gaffer will pick a team that he thinks can win the game.
"If I'm not in it, then so be it. I'll be ready to come on if needed."
After three months out, Ward was brought on as a 68th-minute substitute in the 1-1 draw at the Valley on December 29.
He scored from the penalty spot with virtually his first touch to equalise for the Rams but limped off soon afterwards.
It turned out to be only a minor setback and the former Sheffield United man returned to action in a friendly against Burton Albion last Tuesday, getting an hour under his belt before his run-out at Brighton.
"At Charlton, I just felt my hamstring a little bit, so because I'd been out for so long with it, I decided to come off," he said.
"It was the right thing for me and at the end of the day, I've got to look after myself and my body.
"The gaffer fully understands that, which is a positive for me."
Ward's successful spot kick against the Addicks was his fifth goal of the season – all of them coming in his last seven appearances for the Rams.
"I was happy to score against Charlton," he added. "I'm quite a confident lad and the fact that I had only just come on didn't really bother me.
"That was the plus side of the Charlton game. The negative was coming off with the hamstring injury again.
"I'd got through training fine but there was obviously something not right there, so I made the right decision to come off.
"But I felt fine at Brighton and, hopefully, we've got past that now."