Wayne Rooney was delighted to see Derby County’s strikers on the scoresheet as they recorded a valuable 2-1 victory at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon.
On-loan Lee Gregory netted his first goal for the Rams by converting a well-worked corner routine to open the scoring after 15 minutes.
Colin Kazim-Richards went on to double Derby’s lead on the half-hour mark with a thunderbolt of a strike from the edge of the box to put them on track for a fourth win in five league matches.
Neeskens Kebano pulled a goal back for the visitors before the break and despite falling under long spells of pressure late on, Rooney’s side defended superbly to see the game out.
The victory was enough to lift the Rams out of the Sky Bet Championship’s bottom three and Rooney saw several pleasing aspects over the course of the 90 minutes.
“It is a great win and for us what is important right now is that we have to keep trying to pick up wins and if we keep doing that then we will be fine,” Rooney told RamsTV.
“The league table is at the back of my mind and not something I’m focused on. We need to keep performing and playing with the togetherness and character we are playing with now.
“We did not want to play too much in the middle of the pitch today against a strong Middlesbrough side; that’s what they want with their man-to-man system. We wanted to by-pass that and go a bit more direct to the two strikers and try and play from there. We did that really well in the first 35 minutes or so and after that, especially in the second half, we came under threat but not too much.”
He added: “The defenders – especially late on – were heading the ball away and getting blocks in. It is what we want; players being engaged in the game, being ready to perform and putting their body on the line for the team.”
Gregory’s goal, on his first start for the club after joining from Stoke City earlier this month, was a set-piece move straight off the training ground.
“We’ve worked on it this week,” Rooney admitted. “We have had a free week and it has given us time to work on some ideas on the training pitch and that was one of them.
“It is always great when you work on something and it pays off.”
Kazim-Richards’ superb strike was his sixth of the season as the experienced frontman continues to excel in a Derby shirt since his arrival as a free agent early in the campaign.
Rooney said: “Colin’s goal was a fantastic strike. He just put his foot through it and it was too quick for the goalkeeper to react to it.
“It was a fantastic goal and to get the two strikers scoring today is very pleasing.”
Derby return to Championship action on Tuesday night with a trip to Wycombe Wanderers, who sit bottom of the table, but Rooney has made it clear his side must take nothing for granted.
He said: “It will be a tough game. Every game in this league is a tough game so we must be ready mentally and physically.
“We have got a couple of days to recover and be ready.”