Phillip Cocu felt Derby County did enough in their performance to claim all three points in Friday night’s local derby fixture at local rivals Nottingham Forest in the Sky Bet Championship.
Derby were forced to settle a 1-1 draw at the City Ground after Lyle Taylor’s second-half strike for the hosts cancelled out Martyn Waghorn’s sublime opener.
Waghorn, making his first start of the campaign after recovering from a calf injury, fired home a fine free-kick from distance midway through the first half.
Derby thought they had won it late on when winger Kamil Jozwiak fired home, only for an offside decision – against Waghorn – to rule out the goal.
Cocu was bitterly disappointed with the decision as he felt his players produced a fine display, which was arguably their best of the campaign to date.
“I think what the lads put on today as a team for themselves, the club and definitely for the fans was just fantastic,” Cocu told RamsTV after the game.
“It is just so hard to take after we scored a late goal that was ruled out. Nobody protested; not the goalkeeper, not the bench and not the players. Nobody. It was remarkable because if you look at that goal and also the one Forest scored, I think they are the same.
“We’ve had a few moments like this. They are very big moments, key moments in games and in the end are very decisive. We work hard and the players put their best effort in and you expect to be rewarded for it. The contrary is happening at this moment."
He added: “The pressure was on the game, as it was a big one I think we showed really good character today, not only in the attitude of our players but because we also came here to play.
“I think we have been better in the last couple of games, but a win would have given us a lot more of a boost going into Wednesday against Cardiff at Pride Park.”
Waghorn’s goal coincided with his first start of the campaign, after making a brief comeback off the bench at Huddersfield Town on Tuesday.
Cocu was happy with the striker’s contribution throughout his 80 minutes on the pitch, while the Dutchman was also impressed with Jozwiak and Tom Lawrence’s displays out wide.
After being without the likes of Waghorn and Lawrence for the early stages of the campaign, their returns have shown the undoubted quality they can bring to the side.
Cocu said: “It was a quality goal from Martyn. We know he can do it, but if you have been out for quite a long time and then start like he did today, it isn’t easy.
“He gave us a lot, not just the goal, and pushed himself into the 80th minute with a lot of energy, off the ball runs, being strong in his duels and it was great to see.
“I thought Tom Lawrence and Kamil Jozwiak played very well too. They give us a way up the pitch and off the ball movement.”
Derby return to Sky Bet Championship action on Wednesday when they take on Cardiff City at Pride Park Stadium (7:45pm kick-off).