Wayne Rooney felt there were several encouraging signs to take from his side’s performance as they were beaten 1-0 by Sky Bet Championship leaders Norwich City at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday.
The only goal of the game came at the midway point of the first half as former Rams loanee Kieran Dowell lashed a free-kick into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Rooney’s side pushed get back on level terms straight after the interval and both Colin Kazim-Richards and Teden Mengi were denied by Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul.
The Dutch shot-stopper also denied ex-Norwich loanee Patrick Roberts following a fine run, while Graeme Shinnie blasted a late chance over too as Derby applied plenty of pressure in the closing stages.
While they were unable to break the visitors’ backline down and ultimately came away with nothing to show for their efforts, Rooney was encouraged by what he saw from his injury-hit side.
Derby sit 20th in the table and are seven points above third-bottom Rotherham with five of their own fixtures left to play this term and Rooney remains confident his players have what it takes to secure safety in the next few weeks.
Speaking to RamsTV shortly after the final whistle, Rooney said: “I thought the performance was very good today and that we frustrated them at times.
“The goal was a sloppy one from our point of view; we could have managed the situation better in terms of trying to play out quickly, not having players in the right positions and then giving a free-kick away.
“We grew in confidence as the first half unfolded and then in the second half we were the better team for the full 45 minutes and deserved something out of the game.
“Norwich are a very good team; they have been together a long time so I think they deserve to go back up to the Premier League. It gives us confidence and the way we performed today, we can take some encouragement from that.”
He added: “With a little bit more care in the final third we would have had a lot more chances.
“We have to take the positives from today. Norwich are the best team in the league and we have played really well against them. We have got a lot of injuries right now, but there are a lot of positives, although ultimately it wasn’t the result we wanted.”
Derby now face back-to-back away fixtures against mid-table sides Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End before welcoming Birmingham City to Pride Park Stadium in a fortnight’s time.
Rooney believes the next few games will carry a great deal of significance for the Rams.
He said: “We have to move on and keep trying to move forward. We have five games left and we know what we must do to make sure we stay in this league.
“Regardless of what the results were today, we have a big two games coming up. The two away games then lead us nicely into the game here against Birmingham in two weeks. After those games we will know where we stand.”
Derby have a full week to prepare for their next Sky Bet Championship fixture, which will see them head to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday 17th April (3pm kick-off).