08:00 Wednesday 18 December 2013

Derby County defender Zak Whitbread could return to action

Written bySTEVE NICHOLSON

DEIH20131001B-028_C.JPG Picture: Ian Hodgkinson.Derby County V Ipswich.Zak Whitbread goal DEIH20131001B-028_C.JPG Picture: Ian Hodgkinson.Derby County V Ipswich.Zak Whitbread goal

ZAK Whitbread is hoping to bring an end to what has been a frustrating time for Derby County’s on-loan defender.

Whitbread has missed eight matches with a calf injury.

The central defender joined the Rams on loan from Leicester City at the end of September and made his debut in the 4-4 draw against Ipswich Town.

He then helped Derby beat Leeds United 3-1 and started in the victory over Watford at Vicarage Road before he limped off in the 33rd minute and was replaced by Jake Buxton.

Buxton and skipper Richard Keogh have formed the centre-back pairing since and the Rams have won six and drawn one of the eight games.

Whitbread’s loan expires in January.

The 29-year-old has had to sit and watch the team’s progress but he is now back in training.

“We felt the under-21 game against Notts County on Monday was too early for Zak to return to action,” said first-team coach Paul Simpson.

“It is a case of building his fitness.

“Hopefully, he will have a full week of training and he may be an option for us over the Christmas period.

“We were really pleased with what Zak was doing in the games we saw him, and we werer really pleased with his contribution.

“It has been a real disappointment and very frustrating for him that he has not been able to be involved.”

Simpson says calf injuries can be frustrating.

“It is something I suffered with towards the end of my career,” he added.

“You get to a point where it feels really good and then when you start to extend it, you feel pain again.

“You’ve just got to be patient.”

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