Phillip Cocu made a clear challenge to Derby County’s players at his pre-match press conference in the lead-up to the weekend’s 2-0 home victory over Middlesbrough.

Cocu stressed that he wanted his players to be more creative when advancing into attacking situations and into the final third.

Derby picked up nine points from a possible 15 in their five matches between the August and October international breaks to climb the Sky Bet Championship table.

They also scored nine goals during that time but had only scored once in their three matches after returning to action in mid-October.

Derby failed to turn their possession into goalscoring opportunities and Cocu stated ahead of the clash with Jonathan Woodgate’s side on Saturday that he wanted to see an improvement going forward.

Tom Lawrence stepped up to the plate with two well-taken goals, to take his tally to the season to five, but the Rams also got themselves into other encouraging positions throughout the 90 minutes.

Derby had a total of 41 touches in the opposition box on Saturday, which was their most in a game so far this season.

The Rams could have added to their two goals with chances in both halves, particularly after George Saville saw red before half-time, and Cocu was encouraged by what he saw from his side as they recorded a fourth home win in a row.

“We were really eager to get a strong and a good start on Saturday,” Cocu explained to RamsTV.

“You know your opponent knows that we will start with some pressure and we did, so they knew what was coming.

“We did well on the ball. I think Middlesbrough had a lot of trouble stopping us and it is a team that doesn’t concede a lot of goals, so it means their organisation and defence is very good.

“That is why I can be happy with how we played and how we created. We tried to create more chances on goal that the last couple of games and we did that.”

Looking back at Derby’s second goal to confirm all three points, Cocu was impressed with the patience his side displayed in the build-up.

Their perseverance was eventually rewarded as Jayden Bogle set Lawrence up to net his second goal of the game with a composed finish.

Cocu said: “In the offensive attack for the second goal, there was a little bit more patience before we decided to take the shot or the cross and that is why it was a goal in the end.

“We discussed at half-time that it is very important in these types of games to get the second goal. If your opponent plays with ten and you score a second, it is a done game for them.

“When it stays 1-0, one set piece or one unlucky moment can be very costly, but we did well.

“We kept playing in our organisation, but that is sometimes difficult when you play against ten men.

“Everyone wants to go forward and when the game went on we got in more and more good positions in front of the goal. I am happy with the second goal by Tom, not only for the team, but for him personally.”

Cocu opted for a two-man attack of Jack Marriott and Chris Martin for the first time this season against Boro.

Starting with two strikers provided the opportunity for Lawrence to influence the game with what the Derby boss described as ‘a little more freedom’ in behind the duo.

That freedom was clear as Martin and Lawrence linked up superbly for the Welshman’s opener.

He said: “Chris Martin is very clever in finding positions, he gets into the ball well.

“With the speed and the runs in behind of Jack Marriott, it worked very well.

“Tom Lawrence had a little bit more freedom. He always has at left-wing but on Saturday a little bit more and I think they did very well.”