However, the 27-year-old suffered setback in training this summer and the Saints have taken a cautious approach to his recovery, easing him back into action with 45 and 60 minute run outs for the Under-23s before he completed a full game on Monday.
Gardos hopes the clash with Derby is just the next step to making his return to first team action and feels he is starting to get back to his best.
“It was good for me. I'm happy to have made it through 90 minutes after a long time out," Gardos told the Saints' website. "I'm just at the beginning, so I have to keep building on this and move forward.
"I was a bit tired, because I haven't played 90 minutes for such a long time, and it wasn't easy.
"I've been through a lot in the last 16 months. I'm happy to have finished the game and I’m feeling good.
He added: "Of course for me it’s just the beginning. I still have a lot of work to do. Hopefully I’m going to be okay and I will get rid of these problems.
"I hope to be able to get some first-team game time soon, but I know I have to keep working hard to get back to my level."