Wayne Rooney admitted he was ‘delighted to come away with a point’ as Derby County left it late to claim a 1-1 draw against local rivals Nottingham Forest in the Sky Bet Championship on Friday night.
James Garner’s goal just after the half-hour mark put Forest in front, but striker Colin Kazim-Richards thundered home a superb strike from distance with six minutes remaining to earn Rooney’s side a point.
Kazim-Richards’ seventh goal of the campaign was the perfect way to celebrate a new one-year contract extension, which was announced earlier in the day, after an impressive campaign to date with the Rams.
Rooney felt Derby were the better side for the vast majority of the first half, but admitted they struggled to get going after falling behind.
In particular, he was not impressed with his side’s second half showing – but he commended the character of his players to dig deep to pick up a point when they were not at their best.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Rooney said: “It was really a game of two halves; for the first 30 or 35 minutes we were the better team but in the second half Forest were the better team. Both teams scored against the run of play and it is probably a fair result in the scheme of things.
“It has been a long time since we have conceded the first goal and got anything out of the game, but we did it tonight.
“I think the lads’ heads went down after we conceded. I was trying to get them to relax and calm down because sometimes you concede the first goal in games, we were playing very well and causing Forest problems.
“Maybe we were not creating that many chances, but I felt if the game carried on the way it was going that we would cause them big problems.
“After they scored, we were on the back foot a bit. I spoke to the players at half time and said we could still go and win the game, but the second half I cannot explain. Forest were first to second balls, there were three or four times we almost played them in on goal ourselves and that was not good enough in the second half.”
He added: “I am delighted to come away with a point in the end.
“Somehow, we stayed in the game. I think the lads showed good character in the sense that we didn’t give in, we kept going and then a great goal from Colin got us the point.”
Rooney made changes in the second half with Louie Sibley, Lee Gregory and Patrick Roberts off the bench.
The 35-year-old felt on-loan Stoke striker Gregory made a real impact and he had a chance to win the game late on - but failed to find the target from Roberts’ cross.
Rooney said: “I thought Lee Gregory was great for us when he came on.
“He showed great energy and enthusiasm, he was a handful and I think he really lifted the rest of the team with his energy. I was delighted with him.”
Goalkeeper David Marshall was forced off with a back injury in the first half and was replaced by Kelle Roos.
Rooney says the Scotland international will be assessed by Derby’s medical team over the weekend.
He said: “David should have done better for the goal; I am sure he will be the first to say that.
“Whether that was down to his injury, I do not know, but hopefully he is alright. We will see how he is in the morning and what the issue is.”
Derby return to Championship action on Tuesday night when they travel to Cardiff City (7pm kick-off).