Jeff Hendrick is congratulated by team-mates. Tim Goode
the championship

No playoff hangover as Derby make winning start thanks to Jeff Hendrick

The Irish international has started as he means to go on.

DERBY COUNTY SHOWED no signs of a hangover from their agonising play-off final defeat as the Championship promotion contenders started the second tier campaign with a 1-0 victory over Rotherham today.

Steve McClaren’s team saw their dreams of reaching the Premier League dashed in heartbreaking fashion when Bobby Zamora punished a defensive blunder to score a last-minute winner for 10-man QPR at Wembley in May.

But the Rams are among the bookmakers’ favourites to go up this term, having kept the nucleus of their play-off team together.

And they made the perfect start to their bid for redemption thanks to Ireland midfielder Jeff Hendrick, whose cool finish eight minutes from full-time finally broke the stubborn resistence of newly-promoted Rotherham at the iPro Stadium.

Derby’s local rivals Nottingham Forest also made a winning start, beating Blackpool 2-0, on the opening weekend of the new English season.

Forest’s new manager Stuart Pearce was afforded a rapturous reception on his return to the City Ground for his first game as permanent manager of the club where he earned legendary status as a tough-tackling left-back.

Pearce, who had a brief spell as Forest’s caretaker manager in 1996, endured a difficult build-up to the opener when the club’s Kuwaiti owners sold promising youngsters Jamaal Lascelles and Karl Darlow to Newcastle this week against his advice.

But Pearce was handed the majority of that cash to sign striker Britt Assombalonga and winger Michail Antonio and both impressed on their debuts against a Blackpool team also under new management in Jose Riga, who could only name four substitutes due to a series of player sales.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Nottingham Forest v Blackpool - City Ground Mike Egerton Mike Egerton

Former Manchester City manager Pearce was soon celebrating the first goal of his tenure as Antonio swept home in the 25th minute after Andy Reid’s shot hit a post.

Five minutes later it was 2-0 when Chris Burke cut in from the right side to hit a left-footed strike into the top corner.

After a turbulent pre-season, fallen giants Leeds suffered a nightmare start to the season with a 2-0 defeat at Millwall.

Eccentric Italian owner Massimo Cellino has infuriated the club’s long-suffering fans with a series of bizarre decisions, including sacking highly-regarded manager Brian McDermott and replacing him with David Hockaday — an unknown with no experience of Football League management.

The highly superstitious Cellino has also reportedly banned the number 17 and the colour purple from Elland Road, but his team were still out of luck in south London as Millwall cruised to victory thanks to Mark Beevers’ eighth minute strike and an 88th minute penalty from Shaun Williams.

Wigan, beaten in the play-off semi-finals by QPR, are fancied to push for promotion again, but had to rely on a James McArthur strike three minutes into stoppage-time to secure a 2-2 draw at home to Reading.

Troy Deeney showed why a number of Premier League clubs are keen to sign him with a clinical finish as Watford beat Bolton 3-0, with Matej Vydra and Fernando Forestieri also getting on the scoresheet at Vicarage Road.

Middlesbrough began in fine style as Spanish striker Kike, a £3.5 million signing from Real Murcia, scored on his debut in a 2-0 defeat of Birmingham, with Daniel Ayala also netting.

Elsewhere, Bournemouth won 4-0 at Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday beat 10-man Brighton 1-0 and Brentford, playing in the second tier for the first time in 21 years, drew 1-1 at home to Charlton.

- © AFP, 2014

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