Wayne Rooney felt there were positives and negatives to take away from Derby County’s latest pre-season friendly on Saturday afternoon.
Derby’s third pre-season run out, following the recent behind-closed-doors game against Fulham and last weekend’s Pride Park Stadium clash against Manchester United, saw them go down 2-1 at Sky Bet League Two side Salford City.
Despite a bright start by Derby early on, it was Salford who took the lead after 21 minutes. Josh Morris was the man on target, slamming a penalty down the middle past David Marshall after a foul by Ravel Morrison in the box.
Shortly after half-time, the hosts doubled their lead as Tom Elliott powered a header into the net beyond the reach of substitute goalkeeper Ryan Allsop.
Derby did get a goal back with 13 minutes remaining as Craig Forsyth’s excellent left-wing cross was turned into his own net by Salford defender Jordan Turnbull from a few yards out.
Rooney saw some good moments from his side, but he also knows there are several elements to work hard on ahead of the 2021/22 Sky Bet Championship season starting in a fortnight’s time.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Rooney said: “I think it was a good game for us to play. The lads have been working hard on theirs fitness and how we want them to play this season.
“I think there were some very good moments today and others where we could have done better. I was pleased with the run-out and it is another step towards the first game of the season.
“There will be positives and negatives to take away from today.”
Rooney’s side got in several good attacking areas against Gary Bowyer’s side, which the Derby boss saw as an encouraging sign.
On the flip side, Rooney believes a more ruthless and clinical edge is needed in the final third.
He said: “I think we have got some very good attacking players and a lot of creativity, so it is about us finding the best way to bring that creativity out of them.
“I think we created some good chances today, but we have to be more clinical and we have to be hungry to score goals.
“Salford had two chances and scored the two goals. We had seven or eight and got just the own goal.
“We need to be more clinical. The way we are building up, we need to get better at that. We need to be more comfortable and braver to be able to take advantage of some of the opportunities.”
He added: “We have had a very tough week this week in training. I have been here in pre-season; it is tough because of the work they are putting in is very hard. It is not like during the season when you can rest between games. This will only benefit them in the long run.”
Rooney confirmed after the game that Republic of Ireland international midfielder Jason Knight will be out of action for a couple of months with an ankle injury.
The Academy graduate was injured at Derby’s training camp in Surrey last week and will miss the opening stages of the new season.
“Jason Knight, unfortunately, will be out for eight to 12 weeks with an ankle injury,” he said.
“It is a loss for us, of course. Knighty is a big player for us and hopefully he gets back as soon as he can.”
On Jack Stretton and Louie Watson, who missed the friendly matches against Manchester United and Salford, Rooney added: “Stretts and Louie will train again next week, they have had knocks but are alright now.”
Derby’s next friendly will see them welcome Spanish top-flight side Real Betis to Pride Park Stadium on Wednesday (7pm kick-off), before concluding their pre-season games programme at National League Notts County next Sunday (1pm kick-off).