Wayne Rooney was full of praise for Derby County’s players as they recorded a richly deserved 1-0 victory at Millwall on Saturday afternoon.
Midfielder Jason Knight scored the only goal of the game with just over 20 minutes remaining as he lashed home after Martyn Waghorn had been denied by Bartosz Bialkowski in the Millwall goal.
Derby’s produced a solid and assured display on the road as they picked up all three points as they claimed their second win of the Sky Bet Championship season.
The result lifts them off the bottom of the table and provides some positive foundations to build on as the side look to climb the league standings.
Rooney is currently leading Derby while the search for Phillip Cocu’s successor continues and, after being in sole charge for three games, he has picked up five points from a possible nine.
Back-to-back draws at home to Wycombe Wanderers and Coventry City were followed up by the Rams’ impressive showing at The Den.
Millwall were backed by a home crowd of 2,000 spectators as crowds gradually begin to return to stadiums and Rooney was delighted with how Derby stood up to the challenge.
“It is a massive three points for us today and I think we deserved it,” Rooney told RamsTV after the game. “I think we don’t need to over-do it, but it was a good win and we have a tough game coming up on Wednesday at Brentford.
“Over the last week, as I said on Tuesday night after the Coventry game, the lads have been fantastic. They are putting a lot of work in and they are taking information which we are trying to give to them.
“I thought we deserved the win today. I am delighted for the players in there as we had the heartbreak of conceding in the last minute on Tuesday and then to come to Millwall away, with fans in the stadium which we haven’t been used to, it’s really pleasing that we have got the win.
“I’ve been really pleased with the performances in the last week. I thought Wycombe was good, I thought Coventry was better and today was the same. Each game has been an improvement in terms of the performance.
“I think the players are finding a bit of steel. They know they have to defend, they know they have to dig in to win football matches and I’ve been delighted with all of them. That is not just the players who are starting the game, but the lads who are coming off the bench as well.”
He added: “The players showed a great attitude today in terms of the work rate. They knew they would have to put a lot of work in today.
“We had to win second balls, win headers and if we couldn’t win them, because Matt Smith is very good in the air, then we have to pick up the second balls and we did that really well.”
The victory would certainly fall into the category of being an all-round team performance.
From back to front, Derby’s players did their jobs and goalkeeper David Marshall made a crucial early save from Jed Wallace to keep the Lions at bay.
The Scottish international custodian’s save came at an important moment and Rooney has stressed the Rams need to keep more clean sheets.
He said: “It was an important save from Marshy and I think what is important is that we try and keep more clean sheets.
“If you keep clean sheets then you are laying down foundations to go and win football games and today that was the most pleasing thing.
“We kept a clean sheet, and we got a goal by getting bodies in the box and that’s something we’ve spoken about a lot with the players.”
Knight’s goal came following a fine Derby move involving Craig Forsyth and Waghorn, with the Republic of Ireland international quickest to react to score inside the penalty area.
“Knighty gives you that,” Rooney said when asked about Knight’s ability to get into the penalty area.
“He gives us great energy all over the pitch and he’ll always find his way into the box. The ball dropped nicely for him, so I am really pleased for him as well.”
Derby return to Sky Bet Championship action on Wednesday evening when they travel to Brentford (7:45pm kick-off).