Wayne Rooney knows his Derby County players need to keep their full focus on each game as it comes as they look to start 2022 in the same manner that they finished 2021.
Derby have picked up three wins in a row in the Sky Bet Championship and concluded the year with a 2-1 victory at Stoke City on Thursday evening.
That result at the bet365 Stadium, the Rams’ second away win of the campaign, came after the back-to-back 1-0 home successes against Blackpool and West Bromwich Albion either side of Christmas.
Rooney’s side will start the New Year on the road with a trip to Reading, a side they defeated 1-0 at Pride Park Stadium back September thanks to a goal from Craig Forsyth, on Bank Holiday Monday (3pm kick-off).
The Derby boss wants his side to continue to build momentum and knows for that to happen they need to continue to put in the hard yards in their preparation work and on the pitch.
“We have to just keep taking each game as it comes,” Rooney told RamsTV. “The last three matches have been brilliant for us, picking up nine points.
“It gives everyone belief, hope and all we have to do is keep working.
“We have another very tough and important fixture at Reading on Monday and we will prepare right for it and make sure we are ready to go.”
Rooney has something of a selection dilemma in attack for the meeting with the Royals.
Youngster Luke Plange, after an impressive season for the Under-23s, has scored two goals in three successive starts.
Experienced frontman Colin Kazim-Richards, however, is breathing down his neck to start after coming off the bench to net the winner in the Christmas matches at home to West Brom and at Stoke.
The pair, as well as Sam Baldock, offer different qualities and options at the top end of the pitch and Rooney is happy with the competition for places.
“I’ve said it before, but Luke Plange is a very good player,” he said.
“He has good movement and causes teams problems and you could see at Stoke that they were scared of his runs in behind their defence.
“It was a great finish from him at Stoke and another goal for him after getting his first against Blackpool earlier in the month.
“When he came off, Colin came on and made an impact. He is full of confidence and I know he would have been disappointed he didn’t start the game at Stoke, but he can have a part to play for us for the rest of the season.
“We have seen it in the last two games, he’s come on and won us the games.”