Wayne Rooney admitted to being ‘disappointed’ to see Derby County bow out of the Emirates FA Cup at the Third Round stage - but he was encouraged by his side’s performance.
Derby went down 1-0 at fellow Sky Bet Championship side Coventry City on Saturday as they tasted defeat for the first time in five outings.
Despite a positive first half display, Derby found themselves behind at the break as Dom Hyam struck for the hosts just three before the break following a corner.
Rooney’s side started positively across the Midlands and Tom Lawrence forced a fine save from Ben Wilson in the Coventry goal, while at the other end Jamie Allen hit the post for home side.
Derby pushed for an equaliser to force extra time in the second period and Jason Knight fashioned out a chance for Festy Ebosele inside the box, but Wilson stood tall to deny the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international.
The Rams pressed to get themselves back on level terms but they were unable to break down the home defence as Mark Robins’ side reached the Fourth Round of the competition.
Speaking to RamsTV after the final whistle, Rooney said: “I thought the performance was good today, despite the result.
“We moved the ball really well, made it really difficult for Coventry and caused them a lot of problems.
“As I’ve said to the players throughout this week, where we need to improve is that we got into some very good areas today, but that final pass, final cross and final shot is what we need to get better at. If we do that, we will become a very good team.
“To come here and dominate like we did is a credit to the players. We were comfortable in the game, the only times we were under threat was when we started to move the ball inside our own half.
“The simple things are the hardest thing to do at times; keep moving the ball, keep playing two-touch, make them run and when we did that, they couldn’t get near us.
“It’s a disappointing result but there are still a lot of positives we can take from it.”
Rooney opted to name a strong side for the clash with the Sky Blues and made only three changes from the thrilling 2-2 draw at Reading earlier in the week.
Festy Ebosele, Colin Kazim-Richards and Ravel Morrison were rewarded for impressive recent showings off the bench with places in the side from the off.
The Derby boss did shuffle his pack late on by making several changes, with up to five substitutions permitted in the FA Cup, with Graeme Shinnie making his return after a three-game absence owing to COVID-19.
Rooney said: “I picked a team which I felt was capable of winning the game but we’re out of the cup so that’s disappointing.
“Our focus is now on the league and doing everything we can to stay in the Championship.”
He concluded: “I think if we keep performing the way we have been, keep showing that mentality and togetherness, then we will have a real chance of staying up.”
Derby will return to Sky Bet Championship action against Sheffield United at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday 15th January (3pm kick-off) in their first home fixture of 2022.