Curtis Davies was quick to praise Derby County’s character as they left it late to record an impressive third successive win in the Sky Bet Championship at Stoke City on Thursday night.

Derby were 2-1 winners at the bet365 Stadium courtesy of substitute Colin Kazim-Richards’ goal five minutes from time.

Luke Plange’s composed finish had Derby in front early on and they looked on course for all three points until former Rams winger Tom Ince equalised with just over ten minutes remaining.

Wayne Rooney’s side weren’t to be deterred though and Kazim-Richards bagged the winner in front of the 2,800 Derby fans behind the goal to round off 2021 with a victory.

Davies admitted it was a ‘special feeling’ to get the win late on and, despite a challenging season so far after two points deductions totalling up to 21 points and the club being in administration, the fighting spirit amongst the players and fans is clear for all to see.

“I think we played really well today, dominated the game and we competed both physically and with the ball,” Davies told RamsTV after the final whistle.

“We deserved our lead at half time and if anything, we looked like we were going to get another goal.

“Unfortunately, we got the sucker punch late on in the game and usually that’s been the case with us this season where we have taken leads and succumbed to an equaliser, but to have the heart and the bottle to go on and get the winner was fantastic.

“It was an inspired substitution by the gaffer as well. To bring on Ravel Morrison showed that he wanted to win the game and he popped up with a bit of quality to create the chance and Colin Kazim-Richards was as calm as can be to get the goal.

“We’re buzzing because too many times this season we have let these games go but there was a special feeling here today that we could win and it’s a great three points.”

He added: “We are closing the gap, but it is still a massive gap and there are teams above us that we need to catch. We will keep going, giving it everything and we won’t stop.”

Davies knows that if Derby are to achieve what many regard as impossible, to remain in the Championship despite the points deductions, then a big number of wins need to be racked up in the second half of the season.

Rather than sitting back and taking a point late on against the Potters, the experienced centre-back felt it was clear to see that the Rams were going all out for the three points.

The result means Derby are now 11 points behind Reading, the side sitting directly outside the bottom three.

“It’s easy to sit back and think 'we will take the point',” he said. “It’s normally good and to take four points from Stoke over the season and have that mentality, but we’re not in that situation.

“We are not in a situation anywhere that a point is a good point, we want to be going for three points and that is echoed by the manager’s substitutions.

“The character, we never doubted each other in terms of working for one another, is there but sometimes we haven’t had the mentality to get the winner.

“Sometimes the character has been to sit back and save the game, but today throughout the team we saw how much we wanted to win.

“That’s what the manager wants and he has tough decisions to make with the team too. He has Colin who scored the winner in the last game against West Bromwich Albion but didn’t start today, but he made an impact when he came on.

“I’m so proud of the group and it’s three on the bounce now - so why not make it four or five? We want to keep the momentum going.”

Derby were backed by 2,800 fans in the away end at the bet365 Stadium and Davies was eager to pay tribute to the travelling faithful.

“The support was unreal,” he said. “It would have been easy to start seeing people go down the steps as we conceded the equaliser, but they stuck with us.

“They gave us everything from the first minute to the last minute and it’s great to reward them with a win.

“People are spending their hard earned money on us, especially at Christmas, and they gave us everything so we’re delighted to give them the three points.

“The fans are brilliant and I have ran out of words for them.”

Derby will get 2022 off and underway with a trip to Reading on Monday 3rd January (3pm kick-off) in their latest Championship fixture.