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Martyn Waghorn makes emotional Derby County admission after surviving 'absolute hell'

The Derby County striker scored twice as Wayne Rooney's men drew 3-3 with Sheffield Wednesday and narrowly avoided relegation to League One

It was far from straightforward in the end but Martyn Waghorn had a feeling this would be Derby County's day.

Waghorn scored twice as the Rams drew 3-3 with Sheffield Wednesday in their final match of the season at Pride Park Stadium.

Thanks to a late Cardiff City equaliser against Rotherham, that was enough to see Derby safe from relegation.

While Wayne Rooney's men survived in dramatic style, Rotherham, Wednesday and Wycombe Wanderers all go down to League One.

Derby had to twice come from behind and with Rotherham leading for much of their game, even a draw was not enough to save them at that stage.

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Waghorn made it 1-1 with a header early in the second half and then emphatically converted from the penalty spot to make it three apiece in the 78th minute.

He was substituted in the closing stages and spent the final minutes prowling the touchline and barking instructions to his team-mates.

The tears flowed at the final whistle and an emotional Waghorn gave his reaction to a roller coaster season finale moments later.

"This is what you live for as a footballer," the striker told Sky Sports.

"The last 15, 20 minutes is absolute hell, I'm not going to lie.

"There was so much riding on it - for the club, the people, the fans - and what a relief.

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"It's been a difficult year for so many reasons but what a day - to stand up, man for man, incredible. I'm so proud."

Derby went into the game on a run of six straight defeats and only one win in 14 outings.

They still did not manage a victory but a draw was enough - just.

"If you can't get up for a game like today and show commitment, you're in the wrong sport," Waghorn added.

"This is what we live for - the highs and lows. Condolences to Sheff Wed who I thought were fantastic.

"They put up a real fight and at times it was swinging against us.

"I said before the game, as a man, I'll fight with you to the death, and boy, we done it. What a performance."

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Waghorn required lengthy treatment early in the game after a sickening collision with a goalpost after sending a close-range header inches wide.

Asked what he remembered of the incident, he replied: "I missed! Back stick, just chucked my head at it and unfortunately it just went wide.

"It took my breath away and I was winded for a bit but I thought: 'I'm going to get many more of these today'.

"I felt it all week, just the way we've been and the commitment we've shown, even though it's been difficult for the past six or seven games.

"As a team, we've stuck together through everything and I knew today was going to be our day. I just had a funny feeling. You get them as a players. Absolutely delighted."

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Waghorn revealed a conversation he had with son Ruben ahead of the match.

"I had a chat with my little boy last night and he's playing Sheff Wed today... I said if I get two today, you best get two and win," he explained.

"Yeah, we didn't get the result but sometimes you get a feeling in football that it's going to be your day.

"Personally, I've not had the best of seasons - injury-wise, goals return for me was not what I wanted, but today, I'm absolutely speechless.

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SWANSEA, WALES - MAY 01: Derby County manager Wayne Rooney walks on the touch line during the Sky Bet Championship match between Swansea City and Derby County at the Liberty Stadium on May 01, 2021 in Swansea, Wales. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

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"To keep fighting, as a player, and keep Derby County in the league...

"Everyone deserves much better than this season - we all know that. We know that we've underachieved.

"Hopefully today is a real platform going forward as a club and we can really build on this.

"We've got personnel right throughout the place that deserve this, so I'm absolutely delighted for everyone involved."

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