Wayne Rooney was pleased to see Derby County record an overdue win on the road on Saturday with a 2-0 success at Blackpool.
Derby picked up all three points at Bloomfield Road to register their third away win of the season in the Sky Bet Championship.
In a first half of few opportunities, Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos - making his first appearance in 2022 - marked his return to the side with a fine penalty save to deny Gary Madine just before the half hour mark following a foul by Festy Ebosele in the box on Jason Husband.
The second half followed a similar pattern in terms of chances being limited, although Roos did make a good stop shortly after the break from Madine’s first-time effort inside the box.
Derby took the lead after 73 minutes as winger Malcolm Ebiowei scored his first-ever career goal from close range after excellent work down the left-hand side by substitute Louie Sibley.
Their lead was doubled with just under ten minutes left as defender Eiran Cashin headed home Ebiowei’s excellent free-kick from out wide to net the first goal of his professional career.
Despite their relegation to League One being confirmed earlier this month, following a hefty 21-point deduction for entering administration and a historical breach of profitability and sustainability rules, Rooney’s side have fought valiantly against the odds all season long.
The win over the Seasiders means the Rams cannot finish bottom of the table, which is some achievement give the obstacles they’ve faced up to this term, and they currently sit in 22nd place.
Rooney told RamsTV afterwards: “I’m delighted with the win and especially away from home. We weren’t at our best today, I think it was as poor a performance that we’ve had in a while, but football is a funny game.
“The first goal is always so important and from when we got it, we looked like we were the only team who was going to score again.
“We dug in and hung in there. Sometimes when you don’t play as well as you can, we went through a 10-minute period when they were on top, you need to do that.
“In the second half, Jason Knight lifted everyone in my opinion. Sometimes it is not through being vocal, going around and shouting at people, it was the way he runs, the way he lifts everyone and his energy is infectious.
“It makes everyone else a little bit more energetic and he did that for us through a tough period. We took the lead and kicked on before seeing the game out. I’m really pleased with the three points.”
Rooney felt Derby getting their noses in front was vital, especially as it is something they’ve not been able to do enough on their travels.
The Rams’ boss also believed it was an afternoon where players right across the team contributed to the positive result.
He said: “The first goal away from home is so important and we dug in; Kelle Roos made some good saves and produced a really solid performance.
“I thought Louie Sibley did well when he came on, he was a real threat. It’s not easy in this period of the season but the lads have shown their spirit and togetherness, so I’m delighted with that.
“It’s a tough place to come here and to pick up all three points I’m really pleased.”
Derby were backed by an outstanding 4,000 travelling fans at Bloomfield Road and they made their voices heard all afternoon.
Despite a difficult season for the Rams off the field, the backing of the Derby faithful has been one of the big positives to take away from the campaign.
Rooney paid tribute to the travelling supporters and hopes for an equally big turn-out in the season finale against Cardiff City next Saturday.
He said: “The fans were incredible. The support they have shown us all season has been amazing, but today, to take the full stand and almost take over here deserves a lot of praise and credit.
“We are proud of those fans and the support they have given us. I’d like to say thank you to the Blackpool fans as well for clapping all the team off and it showed off and it shows what the lads have done and how infectious that can be around the world of football.
“I’m really proud of the players and supporters for what we have tried to achieve and achieved in some ways in bringing the players and fans together has been a big plus for us.”
Derby will conclude their 2021/22 campaign on home turf when they host Cardiff City at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday 7th May (12:30pm kick-off).