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Wayne Rooney praises character of players after 10-man Derby claim a point

Millwall v Derby County – Sky Bet Championship – The Den
(Image credit: Ashley Western)

Derby manager Wayne Rooney was pleased with the character his team showed with 10 men as they dug deep to earn a 1-1 draw at Millwall.

This was a considerably better performance from the Rams than in their midweek defeat at Barnsley and they briefly had thoughts of ending their six-game unbeaten run, following Festy Ebosele’s first senior goal.

They were quickly pegged back by one of their former players, in Scott Malone, and their fans will have been understandably worried their efforts would count for nothing following Nathan Byrne’s red card.

But the Championship’s bottom club were able to soak up the late pressure from Millwall, with their goalkeeper Kelle Roos pulling off some vital saves.

Rooney said: “Talking 90 minutes, we’ve probably done enough to win the game.

“In the first half, especially, we were dominating possession and also creating chances.

“The second half we started a bit slow, then we get the red card, but the lads showed their character.

“It’s always tough when you go down to 10 men, in terms of: do we go to a back five and defend the box?

“Obviously, we knew Matt Smith would come on at some point and he’s a threat, so I wanted to keep the lads up the pitch as well to try and still win the game because I felt we still could.

“There were gaps there and we had a few good chances when we went to 10 men so, overall, a point is never bad away from home, but I felt we could have got three today.”

Derby went ahead after 44 minutes when Jake Cooper was caught in possession by Sam Baldock, who moved the ball on to Tom Lawrence and his pass found Ebosele in space to finish first time.

Millwall’s response was swift, however, as Malone hit a well-struck shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area during first-half stoppage time.

Jed Wallace almost completed the turnaround when he ran away from Curtis Davies, only to be denied by a good block by Roos.

There were then escapes at both ends, as George Saville put a great chance wide for Millwall before Bartosz Bialkowski did just enough to deny Jason Knight.

Derby then lost Byrne in the 64th minute, but Baldock still had a chance to put them back in front before Roos did well to push away Benik Afobe’s overhead kick with 11 minutes left.

Millwall boss Gary Rowett felt his side had not shown enough conviction.

He said of Derby: “I think they turned up and showed a brilliant response from the Barnsley defeat.

“I just think, after the first 10 minutes, we didn’t do things with enough conviction.

“For some reason, at home, we seem to just be a little bit edgy, we didn’t move the ball well enough and I just don’t think we played with enough belief.

“I said at half-time we scored a good goal at the right time – it was an excellent goal, a great bit of play by Jed that put Scotty Malone in for a brilliant finish.

“That was after us conceding a horrendous goal, on our behalf.

“We just overplayed, we tried to go backwards when we had a chance to play forwards and we end up making a mistake for their goal.

“I would say, at that point, it was deserved because they moved the ball really well.”