Frank Lampard was quick to praise the character of his Derby County players after they claimed a dramatic late victory at Hull City this afternoon.
Derby ran out 2-1 winners at the KC Stadium, their second victory on Humberside inside a week after a 4-0 success in the Second Round of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday evening.
Martyn Waghorn’s first-half spot-kick had Derby ahead at the break, but the home side were back on level terms shortly after half-time through Chelsea loanee Todd Kane.
However, with time running out, substitute Mason Bennett crossed for Florian Jozefzoon to score from close range to send the 1,600 travelling Derby fans wild.
The Rams head into the first international break of the season off the back of four successive victories, of which three have come in the Sky Bet Championship.
Lampard was thrilled to see his side dig deep to stay in the game when they fell under pressure in the second half, before grasping the opportunity to head home with all three points with both hands.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Lampard said: “It’s a brilliant three points for us and it was hard-earned.
“I thought our character came through at the end of a very difficult second half. The Championship is a long and gruelling season and we fought for a result.
“I always said it was going to be a tough test for us and it certainly was. Hull wanted to stop us playing the way we wanted to and tried to find ways to try and hurt us, which I thought they did.
“We did really well in the first half and should have been more than one goal to the good; David Nugent hit the bar and Mason Mount had a shot saved – but we know we aren’t always going to have things our own way.
“Hull really came at us in the second half and credit to them because they put us under a lot of pressure. We were very aware they were going to show a reaction to the cup game in midweek.
“We had to stay in the game after they equalised, which we did very well, and then we got our chance to win it. You might say it’s a bit of luck but for me it was earned.
“On chances I felt we deserved to win the game but Hull will certainly feel they had a good shout of coming away with a draw.”
He added: “We’re now going in to an international break so some of the players will have some time to rest, while others will head away on international duty after getting deserved call-ups.
“We will then get back to work because I still see improvement in this team.”
Academy graduate Bennett had impressed in two successive starts in the league in recent weeks – and Lampard admitted the forward was unlucky to find himself out of the starting line-up.
However, he was thrilled to see the youngster make an immediate impact by setting up the winner only minutes after replacing Nugent in attack.
Not only was the Derby boss happy with the youngster’s contribution, but also that of fellow substitutes Craig Forsyth and Tom Lawrence.
He said: “I love Mason Bennett; I think I’ve fallen in love with him!
“He is an incredible kid. He deserved to start today, as did Tom Lawrence as well, from his performances in the previous games. I don’t want to leave Fozzy out either because he is a calming influence for us and did well again.
“A number of the lads came into the side in midweek in the cup game and did well – so I had to pick a team on merit on the day.
“All three came on and played their part. The fans were singing about Mason that he is one of their own and too right they should, he was brilliant when he came on.
“We tell the players when your moment comes to take it and I have to give credit to the whole squad because they’ve all contributed.”
Derby were backed by another huge following on the road and Lampard went to celebrate the victory with the supporters at the final whistle.
He says their vocal backing has been vital in the early stages of the campaign.
He said: “The fans were brilliant once again.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to be supported like we are. I said to Jody Morris before the game when you feel like your fans are dominating an away game, like they have been doing, is huge.
“We went to celebrate with them at the end and rightly so, they were fantastic again.”