Wayne Rooney saw plenty to be encouraged about as Derby County extended their unbeaten run to three matches in the Sky Bet Championship with a goalless draw at Preston North End on Saturday.
Despite the Rams dominating for large parts of the game they were unable to pick up all three points as they returned to action following the two-week international break.
Derby had the better of the chances in the first half at Deepdale with Ravel Morrison forcing a save from Daniel Iversen in the Preston goal early on from distance, while skipper Tom Lawrence and full-back Festy Ebosele did the same later in the half.
Andrew Hughes headed wide for the Lilywhites in the early stages of the second half, while Derby almost took the lead just after the hour as defender Curtis Davies hit the crossbar from Jason Knight’s cross and Iversen kept out Phil Jagielka's follow-up.
Ryan Allsop in the Derby goal denied Preston substitute Scott Sinclair and former Ram Emil Riis Jakobsen as the game became more stretched and both sides sought to make the breakthrough in Lancashire.
In the end the sides had to settle for a point apiece as Derby kept their third successive clean sheet as they moved to within six points of safety, after being deducted 12 points for entering administration in September.
Speaking to RamsTV after the final whistle, Rooney said: “I’m pleased with the performance and I thought it was a positive one.
“We kept another clean sheet, which is always good and it’s three in a row now, but I think it’s clear for everyone to see that we need to score more goals.
“We created some good chances today and if you don’t take them then you don’t win the game, but it was important we didn’t lose.
“It’s not in terms of creating chances, that’s not an issue. It’s about having that composure and being ruthless in front of goal; that’s what I’ve said to the players and we’ll have a look to see if there is anything different we can do to score more goals.”
He added: “I’m disappointed and it’s not often you go away from home in the Championship and you’re disappointed when you don’t pick up three points.
“I think that shows that the level of performance was good. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the three points but it’s important we still picked up one.”
Derby boast the joint best defensive record in the Championship, alongside leaders AFC Bournemouth, with eight goals conceded in their 12 league matches to date.
It’s a record that Rooney is very impressed with and he said: “The lads are working brilliantly and putting a lot of effort in.
“The shape in certain games changes slightly but overall we are looking solid.
“We are organised and we prepare well and all the lads take the instructions into the games.”
Striker Sam Baldock was forced off in the first half after taking a heavy blow to his face while fellow frontman Colin Kazim-Richards returned from a two-month lay-off with an Achilles injury late on.
Providing an update on the duo, Rooney said: “Sam has broken his nose.
“It’s something we share - we have both broken our noses at Deepdale - so he’s in good company! I’m not sure about him being available for the game in midweek but I know he’s broken his nose. The medical team had to put it back into place so we will see how he is.
“On Colin, he’s an experienced player and a big player for us. He hasn’t trained with us yet.
“He trained yesterday really well with the medical team and I asked him if he could give me 10 or 15 minutes today, so it wasn’t planned in advance. He felt he was ready to and it’s nice to see him back out there.”
Derby are back in Championship action on Tuesday evening when they face Luton Town at Pride Park Stadium (7:45pm kick-off).