Wayne Rooney was full of praise for his Derby County players as they produced a resilient performance to hold Sky Bet Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion to a goalless draw at the Hawthorns.
Rooney’s side were strong and well organised throughout, while goalkeeper Kelle Roos was in top form to produce some outstanding saves.
The opening 45 minutes provided little in terms of clear chances for either side under the floodlights, but the hosts shaded proceedings in terms of chances early on with Curtis Davies making a fine block to deny Semi Ajayi from a corner, while Callum Robinson forced Roos into a couple of routine stops.
The Derby goalkeeper made a good save early in the second half to deny Grady Diangana as he burst clear on goal, with Darnell Furlong blazing the rebound over with the goal at his mercy - while Jason Knight saw an effort deflected over for the Rams.
Plenty more resolute defending was required as the Baggies cranked up the pressure as the half wore on and Roos used his feet to keep out substitute Matt Phillips’s low effort and keep out Furlong’s close-range header late on to ensure the Rams earned a well-deserved clean sheet.
Rooney switched Derby’s style of play and formation to match up to the promotion favourites and he was delighted with the way his players executed the game plan.
Speaking to RamsTV after the game, Rooney said: “We know their style of play, it’s the same as Barnsley last season with the manager they have in place.
“I just felt by the way that we played tonight – I know it’s not nice, it’s not pretty and it’s an ugly game to watch - but I felt that was the best way of getting something out the game.
“I thought the lads were excellent across the pitch and Kelle Roos made some superb saves. They took everything we asked of them on the training ground into the game, so it’s a well-earned point.
“We knew that if we could frustrate them, get the fans to turn on them a little bit and then try and hit them on the break then we could get something.
“I thought in the first half we had a couple of chances on the break and in the second half, we had a few too. In those moments you can try and nick a 1-0 win but it wasn’t to be.”
He added: “There are different ways of playing football and different styles. What is good to see tonight is we went away from how we have been playing - and I thought the lads were brilliant at it.”
Rooney handed a first league start to second-year scholar Dylan Williams at left wing back.
The defender only turned 18 yesterday and Rooney was thrilled with the youngster’s mature display.
“I thought young Dylan at left wing back was incredible really,” he said. “To think he only turned 18 yesterday, to come into the side in a defensive role is difficult for a young lad and not so difficult for an attacking player, is incredible.
“The biggest compliment I can give him is that I’m willing to come away to West Bromwich Albion and start him and he deserves it. He’s an older head on young shoulders.”
Derby are back on home turf on Saturday afternoon when they face Stoke City at Pride Park Stadium in their first home fixture of September (3pm kick-off).