Gary Rowett was a happy man after seeing Derby County rack up back-to-back Sky Bet Championship wins for the first time this season this afternoon.
Derby ran out 2-1 winners against Bolton Wanderers, with striker David Nugent bagging a first-half double at the Macron Stadium to move the Rams up to seventh spot in the table.
Rowett’s side carved out several good goalscoring opportunities over the course of the game, with the majority of those coming in a dominant first-half showing in Lancashire.
The Derby boss felt the first half display was as good a performance as the Rams have produced since he took over as manager back in March, as they dominated from the first whistle against Phil Parkinson’s newly-promoted Trotters.
They bossed possession, with Tom Huddlestone pulling the strings deep in midfield alongside Bradley Johnson and – importantly – when Derby got the ball forwards quickly they looked too hot to handle for the hosts.
Matej Vydra and Andre Wisdom in particular had chances to add to Derby’s tally, but Nugent’s double proved to be enough in the end.
Bolton, however, did set up a grandstand finish as Gary Madine pulled a goal back in injury time, denying Derby what would have been a deserved clean sheet on the road.
Rowett admits his side need to make teams pay when they are on top to avoid such nervy situations again moving forward.
He told RamsTV: “I thought that the first half was probably the best 45 minutes of football that we’ve played in terms of our control both in and out of possession.
“I was really happy with lots of the stuff that we did. I thought out of possession, we worked to limit the opposition to very, very few chances and I couldn’t really remember an opportunity for them in the first half.
“We got into some great positions and created some great chances at the other end as well which was so pleasing.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we make those opportunities pay, but the last two games have been a little bit closer to what we’ve been after.”
He added: “What pleased me the most about the first half was the way that we built possession from the back because we built it in a way that got us into pockets and we quickly tried to exploit the space.
“We didn’t make 20 or 30 passes going nowhere. Everything was set up so that we could try an exploit the space.”
Rowett was impressed with the quality of Derby’s goals.
Nugent, starting ahead of Chris Martin up front, was the beneficiary of some fine service from his fellow attackers.
Vydra set up the first with a fine cross for Nugent to flick home, before Johnny Russell laid the second on a plate for the former England international with a fine run and cross.
He said: “The two goals that we scored were terrific, especially the first one. Matej Vydra did well with a good cross and David Nugent skipped in front of a defender to guide the ball into the net.
“The second one was always fantastic with good wing play from Johnny Russell and another good finish as well.”
Despite conceding late on, Rowett was impressed with the way Derby managed the game.
Bolton, perhaps predictably, applied some pressure after half-time as they sought a way back into proceedings.
The Rams stood strong and defended well, with skipper Richard Keogh and Curtis Davies producing rock solid displays at the heart of the backline.
Rowett said: “I thought that we managed the game very well. Luckily for us, we didn’t concede ten minutes earlier because if we did then maybe it would have been a different finish to the game.
“We denied Bolton those pressure moments in the game, which was important. They had little spells but not too much and that was because we worked so hard to get out of them. We pressed and we harried and we forced Bolton backwards to frustrate them and the crowd.”
He added: “We really shouldn’t have been in that position at the end of the game but there are a lot of positives to build on for sure.”