Phillip Cocu felt Derby County’s players stepped up to answer a test of character in their 1-1 draw against Sheffield Wednesday at Pride Park Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Derby extended their unbeaten run on home turf to nine matches following the stalemate with the Owls before a crowd of just over 26,000 under the floodlights.
Cocu’s side struggled to get going in the first half and trailed at the break courtesy of Steven Fletcher’s clinical finish from the edge of the box.
In the second half, however, the Rams responded to the Dutchman’s half-time team talk and took the game to their opponents.
Their perseverance was rewarded as Chris Martin equalised late on from the penalty spot after Jack Marriott was fouled by Moses Odubajo, who was sent off for the Owls in the final minute for a second bookable offence.
Cocu was keen to focus on the positive nature of Derby’s second half display post-game and the way they displayed a strength of character to avoid defeat.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Cocu said: “I am disappointed that we couldn’t get the win, especially after in the second half we played excellently.
“We had good spirit, fighting spirit also and the last part of the game we had some opportunities to get the win.
“That is something I am disappointed about, but after a first half where we struggled I am happy to see there was a good reaction in the second half from the team.
“We needed to step up after half-time and be more aggressive in our duels and pick up second balls and also to be a bit more direct to find the back of their defence.
“I think everybody stepped up and gave everything. We are just waiting for a little bit of luck and we try again on Saturday against Millwall. It will be a similar game, I expect, so we know what to expect and we have to be there from the start."
He added: “Sometimes the team needs some time to find a way to play against a certain opponent and we needed some more time than we would like, in the end we got back in the game after staying in it at 1-0.
“It was a good penalty from Chris Martin to get the equaliser and we had chances to get the winner too. We showed character in the second half and I am pleased with that.”
While Cocu felt Derby’s first-half showing could have been better, he was pleased that his side stayed in the game despite being under pressure.
Set-plays had in particular been an area of concern earlier in the season, but the Rams’ boss felt they faced up to the test posed by Garry Monk's outfit well.
Cocu said: “I think because they are extremely direct in their game play with every free-kick, every goal kick and every throw-in, it was like crosses into our box.
“That is their game style and tactics and they did that well. We needed a half an hour to find a solution and in the last ten minutes before half time we got really in the game and in the second half we dominated.
“In the aspects of set pieces, free-kicks and corners, Sheffield Wednesday have scored quite some goals from set pieces and we did well in that respect.”
Derby are back in action at Pride Park on Saturday against Gary Rowett’s Millwall in their final home game before Christmas (3pm kick-off).
Cocu is eyeing another home victory to send the fans away for the festive period in high spirits and he said: “We are struggling in away games so we need to continue in the good streak here.
“Of course we try to win the games, that is what football is about, but if we cannot win it then we have to make sure that we stay unbeaten at Pride Park.
“We will try to do it again and better on Saturday so we can give our fans who supported us great today again a win.”