Steve Cooper believes Nottingham Forest are taking “small steps” in the right direction following a narrow 2-1 Championship win over arch rivals Derby, which only added to Wayne Rooney’s woes.
Goals from Lewis Grabban and Brennan Johnson helped the home side notch a victory at the City Ground that was more comfortable than the score might have suggested.
After Forest went 2-0 up, Tom Lawrence’s 87th-minute penalty had given Derby a brief glimmer of hope but further drama in injury time saw Ravel Morrison shown a red card, following his high challenge on fellow substitute Philip Zinckernagel.
It was Cooper who was left to indulge in his fist-pumping celebrations, while Rooney will have resumed waiting for news of a takeover at Pride Park, as he looks to inspire a remarkable escape from relegation.
Derby had taken 13 points from their previous five Championship outings but – as Forest stepped up a gear following a scrappy first half – it felt likely that there was only ever going to be one winner here.
“In the second half we were really good. We looked together, we had good organisation, positionally we were good and it gave us the opportunity to create the chances that we did,” said Cooper, who changed from a 3-4-3 formation to a 4-2-3-1 midway through the first half.
“We are taking small steps but we are getting there.
“It was an average game in the first half, there is no doubt about that. We contributed to it being average and I accept that a little bit because of the significance of the occasion.
“There were two chances in the game in the first half, we had one through Ryan Yates and they had a better one for Tom Lawrence.
“We had to change things tactically but, once we did that, I thought we were good. We were definitely worthy winners.
“We gave them one back – which should never have happened – and I don’t just mean the foul for the penalty, because it was a penalty, it was the lead into it that I did not like, in any shape or form.
“Beyond that moment we were in complete control. I thought we managed the game really well. They had a man sent off, while we kept calm heads. In the second half onwards, there was only one winner.”
Rooney is desperate to see Derby’s future resolved.
“The next few days are crucial,” he said. “I’ve had assurances that I don’t have to sell players. We need someone in.
“We need preferred bidders to help this club exist. If not we will have to see what we can do at the end of the window.
“The administrators have said they are confident someone will come in this week. It is a terrible position to be in and needs sorting. I take care of the football and they take care of the business.
“Hopefully there will be some good news. I don’t hold my breath but I’m always pushing to see where we’re at. The players and fans deserve someone to come in.
“Of course we have players lined up, we have to keep doing our job. We see players, we have seen players who would like to play for Derby. Maybe one day I can bring someone in – but the existence of the club is far more important.”
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