Jamie Ward's hour in friendly fixture a lift for Derby County
JAMIE Ward's hour for Derby County in yesterday's friendly against Burton Albion was described as a major bonus by manager Nigel Clough.
Ward took a step towards a return to the first-team squad when he started the 9-1 victory over the Brewers at Moor Farm.
A torn hamstring in the win at Nottingham Forest at the end of September kept the striker out for three months.
His comeback as a substitute at Charlton 11 days ago was shortlived because his hamstring tightened and he has missed the last two matches against Middlesbrough and Tranmere Rovers.
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Derby will now monitor Ward ahead of Saturday's Championship clash at Brighton, but the home game against rivals Forest on January 19 is a more likely target.
Clough watched Ward play and score against Burton.
"We were only going to give him 45 minutes, but he said he felt good and so to get him an extra 15 minutes was a bonus," said the manager.
"It was a major positive to come out of the game, that and the attitude of the players.
"We will see how Jamie reacts in the next few days. He is due to train today and we will monitor him ahead of the weekend.
"We would love him to come with us (to Brighton) but it is a long journey for somebody who has had a hamstring injury, so we will see.
"If necessary we will get him ready for the under-21 game on Monday.
"It was a good hour for him, and it is a good sign, but he has been out a long time.
"We took him to Charlton and gave him 10 or 15 minutes, and he couldn't last that. We must remember how long he has been out.
"It is about building him up. We'll try and get him another hour or so under his belt and then look towards the Forest game."
Craig Bryson is set to miss the Brighton fixture due to his knee injury.
The midfielder has struggled with the problem in recent weeks and he sat out the last three games.
"Craig has not improved as much as we would have hoped," said Clough.
"He keeps doing a certain amount of running up to a point where he feels it. He says it is restricting him quite a bit at the moment.
"It was always going to be a two to six week job, his knee, so it might be another week or so."