Nigel Clough's high hopes for Derby County strike partnership
NIGEL Clough has high hopes of the strike partnership of Jamie Ward and Conor Sammon flourishing in the second half of the season.
Ward made his first start in more than three months and scored Derby's equaliser in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest at Pride Park.
He has now scored five goals in nine starts and six in 11 appearances in total this season.
A torn hamstring suffered in the fixture at Forest at the end of September sidelined Ward and his pairing with £1.2m summer signing Sammon had to be put on ice.
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The pair started for only the eighth time at the weekend and Clough was delighted to see them link up so well for Ward's goal.
"Conor's work rate won the ball," said Clough.
"He closed down brilliantly, took the ball, ran at the central defenders and then played a perfect pass. I don't think Jamie had to break his stride before he side-footed it in.
"It showed once again that there's a partnership between them.
"Hopefully, it will continue to blossom and we'll see more of it in the second half of the season.
"We've been without what we consider to be our first-choice strike partnership for more than three months and it has been hard for us at times."
Ward lasted 67 minutes. "He's not quite as sharp as he normally is and he tired," said Clough.
"He has got some work to do on his fitness, as we saw, but he got a great goal."
Ward missed 17 games due to his hamstring injury.
"He's got one goal every two games this season," said Clough. "Imagine if he had played in those other games, you would be looking at a 10 to 15-goal striker.
"Wardy is also a little so-and-so on the pitch, which is what we miss because we are very nice lads on the pitch, too nice sometimes."
Ward started on the left against Forest but Clough explained: "He has got licence to roam – to have a little go at the right-back and get close to Conor Sammon.
"He makes a real impact when he does that and, hopefully, he can stay fit now because we certainly do miss him when he is out."