Liam Rosenior couldn’t hide his delight at the fighting spirit of Derby County’s players as they earned a dramatic 2-2 draw at Reading on Bank Holiday Monday.
Derby stormed back from two goals down at the Select Car Leasing Stadium and scored twice in the final five minutes to earn a point and extend their unbeaten run in the Sky Bet Championship to four matches in Berkshire.
Derby found themselves a goal behind the at break in their first game of 2022 following an evenly contested opening 45 minutes as Junior Hoilett curled the home side ahead after 37 minutes.
Skipper Tom Lawrence was denied by Luke Southwood in the Reading goal early in the second half before Hoilett doubled the Royals’ lead moments later as he swept the ball past Ryan Allsop at this near post following a free-kick into the Rams’ penalty area.
Derby continued to press for a way back into the game in the final half an hour and with only four minutes left to play substitute Colin Kazim-Richards set up a grandstand finish as he bundled the ball home from close range for his third goal in as many games.
Then, in the first minute of stoppage time, defender Curtis Davies powered home a superb header from Nathan Byrne’s excellent cross to secure a point on the road and send the travelling Rams fans wild.
Rosenior was full of praise for the team’s performance and how they hauled themselves back into proceedings to pick up ten points from a possible 12 in the last month.
Derby’s assistant manager told RamsTV after the game against the Royals: “The players and the fans were magnificent once again. At 2-0 down, it’s really difficult to stay enthusiastic towards the game but the lads going and the supporters kept us going too.
“I think the least we deserved was to get a point from our performance, as I thought some of the football we played was outstanding.
“You could see with the celebrations after Curtis Davies scored the second goal that every single player, member of staff and every substitute were off the bench.
“There’s a real togetherness and team spirit here and that’s something that the manager and myself have been working on for a long time with this group and we’re seeing the fruits of that.
“We just have to keep going, keep believing and making these fans proud because it’s been a very difficult time for the football club.
“I think the game summed up our season in many ways. I think the referee made two mistakes that led to two goals against us. Yes, we can defend them better too, but you are asking referees to make the right call at the right time.
“What I will say is every time we get knocked down, we get back up again and that’s all you can ask for in this group.
“The manager couldn’t be prouder of them and the same goes for me because they represent everything that we believe in, not just in terms of character and spirit but in the way we’re playing.
“We are playing some good stuff, dominating possession, trying to develop our young players to play in a way that kicks their careers on to a Premier League level and I think everyone can see that.”
Derby boss Wayne Rooney wasn’t in attendance at the match, as he is unwell.
Rooney has tested negative for Covid-19 and has cold-like symptoms but has strictly followed the club’s Covid-19 protocols, implemented by the Chief Medical Officer, and took the precautionary measure to not travel with his staff and the squad to minimise any risk.
He was instead in touch with the coaching staff throughout the 90 minutes from home.
Derby had a similar situation back in October when Rooney didn’t attend the 1-1 draw at Coventry City and Rosenior felt the manager’s absence had little impact on the Rams’ approach.
He said: “We already went through it at Coventry where the manager wasn’t there, so we knew how to handle the situation.
“We are a close and tight-knit team. Pete Shuttleworth, one of our analysts, was on the bench today and he was in constant communication with Wayne, so we were always in sync in terms of the decisions we made.
“I’m delighted to be working with him and I think we work well as a pair. Justin Walker and Jason Pearcey has been outstanding in the work they have been doing and all the staff are all working so hard in the background. They deserve to be appreciated and respected for the jobs that they do.”
Derby will take a brief break from their Championship campaign when they head to Coventry City in the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday 8th January (12:30pm kick-off), before welcoming Sheffield United to Pride Park Stadium on Saturday 15th January (3pm kick-off) in their next league outing.