Derby assistant manager Liam Rosenior admitted that he was getting “quite emotional” during bottom-of-the-table County’s dramatic 2-2 draw at Reading.
Rosenior stood in for absent manager Wayne Rooney, who was unwell and at home – though a Covid test had proved negative.
Reading led at half-time through a fine effort from Junior Hoilett, and the winger struck again early in the second half from close range.
But Derby staged a fierce rally to draw level near the end, with late goals from Colin Kazim-Richards and Curtis Davies.
Rooney was in contact with the Derby dugout via WhatsApp, and Rosenior said: “The gaffer was sending messages throughout the game. It was important we had that input because I was getting quite emotional on the sidelines.
“I thought that a point was the least we deserved. We dominated the game in terms of possession and we just needed that break.
“It just confirms the character that we have in the group. We tired Reading out. I’m not concerned about the table, I’m just concerned about our performances.
“We have a young group, we can’t put too much pressure on them. We can look at the table in March. It would be very easy to give up but, knowing Wayne, he has never given up at anything.
”No matter how many times the players get knocked down – or decisions go against them – they keep believing.
“You’ve got a group of players that are fighting for the football club and I couldn’t be prouder of them. And the same goes for Wayne.”
Reading still lie perilously close to the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone after a six-point deduction for breaching EFL financial rules and just two wins in 11 games.
“We had a fantastic first 60 minutes and we executed our game plan very well,” Veljko Paunovic, the Reading manager, said.
“It was probably the best start that we’ve had for a while and early in the second half, our second goal was well executed as well.
“But then we started to see the lack of our game fitness because of obvious circumstances [Reading had not played since December 11 due to Covid issues].
“We also had certain players just back from injury and others still dealing with symptoms and consequences of Covid. It was just too much for us to cope with.
“Until our first goal, we did struggle fitness wise – but we managed it well.
“But the first goal from Derby hit us hard and we couldn’t recompose. It’s not good to see that from your team but it is also comprehensible after what has gone on here.
“I contribute it to our fitness levels. We just couldn’t cope with the last minutes of the game.”
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