Wayne Rooney was keen to focus on the positives after seeing Derby County suffer late heartbreak in their 1-1 draw at home to Coventry City on Tuesday night.
Derby were on course for their first home win of the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season after striker Colin Kazim-Richards headed home Nathan Byrne’s fine cross with seven minutes remaining.
However, moments after youngster Jack Stretton hit the crossbar, Gustavo Hamer lashed an injury-time equaliser to deny the Rams what would have been a deserved victory.
Rooney, overseeing Derby’s first-team matters while the search for a new permanent manager continues, was full of praise for the side’s display against the Sky Blues.
The 35-year-old felt Derby did enough to claim all three points and despite being frustrated at conceding late on, he is convinced a positive run of form is not too far away.
Rooney told RamsTV after the game: “Football is cruel at times, but I have to say the players gave everything tonight.
“We played some great football and the players worked hard for the entire 90 minutes and beyond. I think we fully deserved the win. Unfortunately, we have come away with a draw.
“I think it was a great performance for a team that is at the bottom of the league at this stage. To put that performance in shows the belief the players have. The confidence is coming back and we are creating more chances, so if we keep performing like that we will get out of this run we are in.”
He added: “If we keep playing like that, we will start picking up wins.”
Kazim-Richards’ goal was his first in a Derby shirt after joining the club as a free agent in October. The Turkey international has started the Rams’ last two matches and provided a focal point in attack.
On Kazim-Richards’ impact, Rooney said: “It was a good goal and a great header by Colin.
“He deserves that because he has worked really hard, not just tonight but on Saturday as well. He was tiring a bit towards the end, but I just felt he was always a threat. He was causing problems and we knew if we got the right balls to him in the box then he has got that ability to score.”
Academy graduate Stretton, who has been in fine goalscoring form for Derby’s Under-23s this season, was handed his first-ever career appearance by Rooney when he came off the bench late on in the draw against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
The Scotland youth international striker was denied a first senior goal by the woodwork, after good work by Kazim-Richards, only moments before Coventry’s leveller.
On Stretton, Rooney said: “In the box, he is a goalscorer. I wanted to freshen it up a little bit to go in search of a goal and bringing Jack and Kamil on was about getting fresh legs in the final third.
“For Stretts, unfortunately it’s not to be tonight. It is unlucky, but it’s pleasing that he’s in the box. He is in the right position and on another day that would go in.”
Derby are back in Championship action on Saturday when they travel south to face Millwall. Rooney believes the Rams can take confidence from their last two performances, and especially from the display against Coventry, to The Den.
He said: “It’s not easy when you are down at the bottom, so two games unbeaten is something we have to take and there are a lot of positives from tonight.
“We have to take the confidence we have into the game Saturday believing we can win.”