Wayne Rooney was understandably frustrated to see Derby County taste a 3-1 defeat at play-off hopefuls Reading on Easter Monday – but he felt there were some positives for his side to build on.
Reading took the lead in the final seconds of the first half at the Madejski Stadium as Michael Olise’s strike from the edge of the box found the top corner.
That goal was harsh on Derby, who had enjoyed good spells and had the best chance up until that point when Colin Kazim-Richards hit the post with a header.
Reading goalkeeper Rafael Cabral also denied Tom Lawrence and Kazim-Richards with a fine double save seconds later as the Rams pushed for the opener.
After the break, Rooney’s came out looking to draw themselves back onto level terms but found themselves two goals behind just before the hour as George Puscas scored from close-range.
Derby managed to get a goal back with just over ten minutes remaining as Lawrence lashed a superb effort from range into the top corner, but the hosted restored their two-goal cushion as Lucas Joao pounced from six yards out.
The result leaves the Rams eight points above the bottom three with six of their own fixtures remaining.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Rooney said: “We put in a good performance today, I felt we deserved something out of the game, but that is football.
“The goals that we gave away were sloppy ones. That does not help us and makes it difficult, but I think the performance from a lot of players was very good.
“I felt when Tom Lawrence scored that we were building some momentum, we were looking dangerous when we were going forward and to give away such a sloppy goal, which really kills the game off, is disappointing.
“I am disappointed with the result, but there are a lot of positives today and we have to focus on those, but also iron out some things too.”
He added: “Reading’s goalkeeper had a very good game today and made some excellent saves. I think we were doing the right things, we were getting in very good positions, but if we give away the goals we gave away then we make it a lot more difficult for ourselves than it should be.”
Derby were forced to replace right-back Nathan Byrne midway just after the half-hour mark following a clash of heads with a Reading player.
He was replaced by youngster Kornell McDonald and the 28-year-old will have his situation assessed by the medical team in the coming days.
In addition, youngster Jack Stretton sustained an ankle injury in the second half after coming off the bench following his return from a spell on loan at Stockport County.
Those injuries added to a lengthy list of absentees which includes Curtis Davies (achilles), Krystian Bielik (knee), George Edmundson (hernia), Matt Clarke (groin), Lee Gregory and Martyn Waghorn (both hamstring).
Rooney said: “There have been quite a few injuries over the last week and two more today, which isn’t ideal.
“Injuries are part of football, we have a squad with a lot of young players so I need to make sure I have the players right for the games ahead. It is something we have to deal with.”
Derby are back in Championship action at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday when they face leaders Norwich City at Pride Park Stadium (3pm kick-off).