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Derby boss Cocu proud of his players after ‘difficult week’

Derby manager Phillip Cocu was proud of his players after they ended a tough week for the club with a 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough.

The sacking of captain Richard Keogh for gross misconduct following the incident in which Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett were convicted of drink-driving could have impacted on the team but they cruised to a fourth consecutive home win.

Lawrence scored twice while ‘Boro had George Saville shown a red card for a first-half lunge on Krystian Bielik and remain in the relegation zone.

It might have been different if Britt Assombalonga had scored in the second minute but with the goal gaping his shot deflected behind off Matt Clarke.

Derby went ahead in the 22nd minute when Lawrence exchanged passes with Jack Marriott before driving a low shot from just inside the area past Aynsley Pears.

Boro’s task got harder 10 minutes later when Saville was dismissed for a high challenge and they rarely threatened to disturb Derby’s hold on the game.

Chris Martin fired over when he should have scored, Duane Holmes twice went close and Jayden Bogles was denied by Pears before Lawrence sealed victory in the 84th minute.

Bogle played in Lawrence who beat Pears from an angle to give Cocu a happy ending to another tough week.

“I have spoken about it and it’s a difficult week,” Cocu said. “We needed the win because it was just not a normal game.

“It’s easier said than done to say it has an impact on everybody, there’s no doubt, but we have to play and have to focus on the game and show our best and be professional.

“And I think they showed that they are and did an excellent job and that’s not easy, I can assure you. So I am proud of the performance of the team.

“The dynamic and the spirit in the team was really good and that was important for me to see.”

Lawrence scored his first goals since his conviction last month and Cocu said: “I have to say with two goals everyone is focused on this performance and he played very well today.

“But in the last couple of games he also played very good so I think he is in a very strong and good moment.”

Boro boss Woodgate admitted the Assombalonga chance was decisive.

“It’s unbelievable really, it’s a huge chance and you’ve got to take it,” he said.

“It’s a clique but it’s fine margins in games. We don’t score and then we get a man sent off and it’s really difficult then.

“We are creating opportunities and I have to say easy opportunities. It’s not just the forwards, you can’t just pin the blame on their door, it’s all the players and they need to start scoring.

“You can say it’s luck but it comes down to putting the ball in the onion bag. You’ve got to do it, you’ve got to concentrate on the fine little things, we have to take our chances.

“We have to stay positive and together as a group and knuckle down as individuals and as a team because that’s how you get out of this situation.”