Martyn Waghorn made headlines and was the hero for Derby County after helping Wayne Rooney’s men avoid relegation with a fantastic double despite crashing into the woodwork early in their Sheffield Wednesday bout.
Dubbed “D-Day” by the local press, the Rams faced their fellow champions in Pride Park on Saturday afternoon, with both sides downgrading them to the third division of English football.
With Derby only accumulating five points in their last 13 games, that development seemed like a real possibility for the first time since 1986.
Waghorn was ready to put his body on the line for the cause, however, and set an example early on when he tried to take a big chance in the first quarter of an hour.
At the rear post, the attacker just hit Wednesday’s goal.
But when he threw himself on the ball, he accidentally hit the post at high speed and lay in agony on the ground.
With no fans in the stadium, viewers at home or on the internet – where the clip was widely circulated – could hear the effects of Waghorn literally hitting the wood.
He barely moved when medics visited, adding to growing concerns that he had been knocked out unconscious.
Getting back on his feet after four minutes, while Waghorn on closer inspection showed that he hit the post with his chest rather than his face, the number 9 would have more of an impact on the tie as he continued to be a soldier.
Sam Hutchinson scored deep in stoppage time for the guests and sent Derby through the tunnel in a gloomy mood during the break.
In the 49th minute Waghorn reacted 1-1 by shooting a cross from the left flank home.
Three minutes later, he prepared Patrick Roberts with his back to goal, what was called a “classic center forward game”, and therefore got an assist.
52 ‘Waghorn with a classic center forward. Strong, back on target, holds it up and feeds Roberts, who ships it exactly. Derby kind of turned it around. Waghorn plays so well out there.
– Ryan Conway (@ RJConway92) May 8, 2021
The Owls equalized on Callum Peterson in the 62nd minute, and when they took a 3-2 lead seven minutes later thanks to Julian Borner, it seemed like the fatal blow for Derby had been re-triggered.
Waghorn ended one man’s performance with a penalty in the 78th minute and helped his men avoid the fall.
As a result of the 3-3 draw, Wednesday rose alongside colleagues Rotherham United and Wycombe from South York, who drew 1-1 with Cardiff and defeated Middlesborough 3-0.
Surviving with a single point, it was all around hugs as Waghorn talked about his performance and his boss’s positive impact on former Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney.
“As someone who has won absolutely everything, he was just trying to keep us calm as a team,” said Waghorn.
“He told us that he believed in us from day one. He instilled that belief in order to keep going.”
Rooney later commented on the result himself, revealing how closely he was connected to ‘Waggy’ as a player.
“We played the PlayStation the whole time,” added Rooney to his Derby time before replacing Phillip Cocu when the Dutchman was sacked bottom-bottom at the beginning of the season.
“”[And] When I became a manager, I had to distance myself [from him] and that hurt.
“I’m so happy for him today. His first goal …[I’m] so happy, “concluded Rooney.
🗣 “The last 20-15 minutes were absolute hell.” 🗣 “That’s what we live for, the ups and downs.” Martyn Waghorn speaks to Sky Sports after Derby stayed up on the last day 📺 pic.twitter.com/LIpyHJkXJX
– Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) May 8, 2021
Waghorn admits that the “last 20-15 minutes were absolute hell” but that footballers “live for” the “ups and downs”. The couple can now party and leave a nightmare campaign behind.