Wayne Rooney felt his Derby County players stood up the challenge well as they claimed a hard-earned point against in-form Barnsley at Oakwell on Wednesday evening.
The Sky Bet Championship match ended in a goalless draw as the Rams produced a strong defensive showing against a side that had won seven success league matches to move into the play-off places.
The re-arranged fixture, which was due to take place in February but was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, was played in blustery conditions throughout in South Yorkshire.
Clear-cut chances were limited for both sides across the 90 minutes and the best opportunities for either side came in the second half.
Kelle Roos in the Derby goal denied Conor Chaplin shortly after the break with an instinctive stop, but the best two chances fell the Rams’ way as the clock ticked down.
First Lee Gregory was denied by Brad Collins in the Barnsley goal from Colin Kazim-Richards’ pass, while Graeme Shinnie’s strike from the edge of the box was deflected onto the post and agonisingly wide.
The point saw the Rams put the recent back-to-back losses to Cardiff City and Coventry City behind them and move seven points clear of the division’s bottom three.
Rooney told RamsTV after the game: “We have seen teams come here and try and play a bit more and lose games.
“It shows the trust I have in the players in the sense that I wanted to come here and play Barnsley’s game plan against themselves.
“There were a lot of individual battles on the pitch and a lot of second balls and I think we actually did better than Barnsley did in that respect. On another day I think we could have gone on and won the game.
“I thought in the first half we did well; we defended well, stuck in there and it was about continuing to do that.
“It was a little bit different in the second half with the wind behind us. We had to be a bit more precise and they play a high line, so we tried to put balls in behind and I thought we were close to getting three or four chances to going clean through on goal.”
He added: “It wasn’t to be, but the character the lads showed was great.”
“I am pleased. After the last two games and losing in the way we did, the lads showed a real fight and real character in difficult circumstances and it is a good point.”
Rooney felt it was important to play a more direct style of play to give Derby the best chance of picking up a positive result.
Possession was evenly shared across the 90 minutes, as were shots on and off target, while the Derby boss was happy with how playing with a back three worked for his side.
He said: “I think everyone can talk about philosophies and how you want to play and how you see the game.
“But where we are in the table, we have to give ourselves the best chance of winning each game for whatever team we face.
“I felt tonight this was the best way to play against Barnsley, but it might be different in our next match.”
He added: “I have tried a three at the back few times, but tonight was the best we performed it.
“Teden Mengi was excellent in the middle of the three centre-backs and I thought Craig Forsyth – his first game for a while – did well and Kelle Roos was excellent in goal.”
Derby return to Championship action, after three successive away games, at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday at home to Millwall (3pm kick-off).