Rotherham United’s manager Steve Evans thought his team were worthy of a point on their return to the Championship after Jeff Hendrick’s late winner consigned them to defeat at the iPro Stadium.
Hendrick finished superbly to win a game that looked to be heading for a draw when he swept a right-footed shot from the angle of the box into the top right corner of the Rotherham net in the 82nd minute.
“I think Derby supporters will go away and know their team was in a tough game,” he said.
“They will have a lot of easier games at the iPro, that’s for sure.
“I think we deserved a point and I think the whole ground knows we deserved a point, but sometimes you don’t get what you deserve.
“Many people around the country thought when they saw we were away at Derby it would be lambs to the slaughter, but we aren’t going to be lambs to the slaughter for anyone.”
Hendrick’s winner was tough on the visitors who grew into the game after Derby had threatened to blow them away in the opening 20 minutes and saw a goal-bound header from Karl Arnason cleared off the line by Will Hughes.
Matt Derbyshire headed wide from eight yards before Hendrick pounced, but Rotherham twice went close to equalising in stoppage time with former Derby midfielder Paul Green forcing a superb save from Lee Grant and Kieran Argard having a shot cleared at full stretch by Craig Forsyth.
Evans added: “We were well organised, and after they scored we had two great chances to equalise we would normally take, so we are disappointed we didn’t take them but we’re learning.”
Derby head coach Steve McClaren acknowledged Hendrick’s quality was the difference and McClaren believes he can repeat last season’s double-figure goal tally by midfielder Craig Bryson.
“Absolutely,” said McClaren. “Keep your eye on Jeff. He played really well in the last 10 games of last season and that was a great finish (on Satuday).
“He’s got a goal threat, he’s box to box, strong and tough and he’s got everything which he’s proved again. He kept his head and got the winner when it didn’t look like it was going to come.”
Derby County: Grant, Christie, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Bryson, Hughes (Mascarell 53), Hendrick, Dawkins (Best 79), Martin, Russell (Ward 64). Unused substitutes: Eustace, Whitbread, Sammon, Roos.
Rotherham United: Collin, Broadfoot, Morgan, Arnason, Skarz, Agard, Frecklington, Green, Pringle, Revell (Bowery 58), Derbyshire (Swift 70). Unused substitutes: Loach,Brindley,Wood,Hall,Tidser.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).