DERBY took the first step towards easing the pain of their play-off final defeat to QPR with a hard-earned 1-0 victory over Sky Bet Championship newcomers Rotherham at the iPro Stadium.
The Millers were looking good value for a point until a quality finish from Republic of Ireland midfielder Jeff Hendrick floored them eight minutes from the end, although they twice went close to equalising in stoppage time.
Former Dundee United striker Johnny Russell made a surging run in the first 30 seconds that took him into the Rotherham penalty area before the ball was scrabbled clear.
Rotherham were struggling to cope with Derby’s passing and movement and they were opened up again in the 16th minute when Craig Forsyth made a powerful run down the left, but his cross just evaded Chris Martin.
But Championship favourites Derby were given a warning a minute later when a free kick from the left dropped invitingly to Kieran Agard 12 yards out and his shot on the turn was blocked by one of the home side’s new signings, Cyrus Christie.
It then needed a brilliant reaction save by Adam Collin in the 26th minute to keep out Russell’s close-range header.
Rotherham went close five minutes later when a Ben Pringle corner was met by a diving header from Karl Arnason, but the ball was cleared off the line by Will Hughes.
Derby started the second half strongly with Christie fizzing the ball across the six-yard box with no white shirt able to apply a touch.
The home fans got their first sight of Real Madrid’s on-loan midfielder Omar Mascarell when he replaced Hughes in the 53rd minute, his excellent pass releasing Christie down the right but his cross was bundled away before Martin could pounce.
But Derby finally broke Rotherham’s resistance in the 82nd minute. Christie played the ball inside to Hendrick, who swept a first time shot into the top-left corner from just inside the area.
Stuart Pearce hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after a midweek spat with Nottingham Forest’s owner over the sale of Karl Darlow and Jamaal Lascelles to Newcastle, before both players were loaned back to the club.
However, there was no hangover from that episode at the City Ground as new signings Michail Antonio and Chris Burke gave Forest a 2-0 win against a beleaguered Blackpool outfit still recovering from a summer exodus.
Middlesbrough began their sixth straight season in the Championship in fine style as big-money summer signing Kike scored on his debut in a 2-0 defeat of Birmingham, with Daniel Ayala also netting.
Wigan are again fancied to make the play-offs but had to rely on a James McArthur strike three minutes into stoppage time to secure a point at home to Reading.
Callum McManaman was on target as the Latics got off to a bright start, but Shaun Cummings and Sean Morrison replied for the Royals in quick succession on 71 and 77 minutes before the thrilling 2-2 finish.
Troy Deeney showed why a number of Premier League clubs are keen to capture his signature when hitting the back of the net as Watford beat Bolton 3-0, with Matej Vydra and Fernando Forestieri also getting on the scoresheet for the Hornets at Vicarage Road.
Marc Pugh scored the division’s first goal of the day when putting Bournemouth ahead at Huddersfield inside the opening minute and the Cherries went on to record an emphatic 4-0 victory as Callum Wilson added a brace and Yann Kermorgant also struck.
Brighton had Andrew Crofts sent off when going down 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday, with Giles Coke securing all three points for the Owls.
Igor Vetokele put Charlton ahead at Brentford but Tommy Smith equalised late on for the hosts in a 1-1 stalemate, while Mark Beevers and Shaun Williams netted in a 2-0 triumph for Millwall over Leeds, the second goal coming from the penalty spot.