Derby handed injury blow ahead of big meeting with bitter rivals Nottingham Forest

Derby are preparing to face local rivals Nottingham Forest on Sunday, but have been dealt an injury worry over forward Jamie Ward.

Derby County have shown few signs of a playoff final hangover with a decent start to the new Championship season. After losing 1-0 to QPR in the playoff final in May, Rams boss Steve McClaren was hoping to go one step better this season and take them back to the Premier League.

So far, Derby have won two, drawn two and lost one of their opening five Championship games, with the highlight to date being a thumping 5-1 win over recently relegated Fulham.

Their biggest test is to come on Sunday, as they travel to face fierce rivals Nottingham Forest at the City Ground - just six months after defeating their East Midlands neighbours 5-0.

Their chances of replicating that scoreline have been dealt a blow after Jamie Ward suffered an injury whilst on international duty with Northern Ireland on Sunday.

Ward, formerly of Torquay, Chesterfield and Sheffield United, joined the Rams on an initial loan deal back in 2011 and has gone on to score 28 goals in 120 games, earning rave reviews for his never-say-die attitude as he supports Chris Martin and Johnny Russell in attack.

The 28-year-old started for Northern Ireland on Sunday as they travelled to face Hungary in a European Championships qualifier, but was withdrawn after 66 minutes with a hamstring injury - which could rule him out of the big clash with Forest.

McClaren isn't short of attacking options as Leon Best, Simon Dawkins and Liverpool loanee Jordon Ibe will all be vying to replace Ward if he is sidelined, but his hard work will be missed in a big away game - leaving McClaren with a big decision to make if the worst case scenario is realised.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch