Derby County eased relegation fears with a 2-0 triumph over Luton Town in an end-to-end Good Friday clash at Pride Park.
Goals at the beginning of each half from Lee Gregory and Graeme Shinnie ended a seven-game winless streak for the Rams and increased the gap to eight points from the relegation zone.
Luton had plenty of chances to score in the first half; however, they could not capitalise, and Wayne Rooney’s side came away with the three points going into two tough fixtures against Reading and Norwich City next.
Rooney reinforced the importance of this result and insisted that he will not let his players get complacent as they enter the last leg of another gruelling EFL Championship season.
On the game
The Derby manager was impressed with how his side started the game in what he saw as a must-win fixture.
“I think it was a game we had to win,” said Rooney. “I said to the players that we could not leave the stadium without three points today.
“I think we started the game really well and caused them problems with our crosses into the box.”
Despite now being in a comfortable position in terms of the relegation battle, the 35-year-old insisted that this is no time to drop performance levels.
Rooney exclaimed: “I think we have to keep pushing in trying to win games.
“We can’t afford to take our foot off the gas. I want to win every game no matter what.”
On Gregory and Waghorn
The two strikers made a lightning start on their return to the starting lineup but were later forced off with injuries.
Nonetheless, Rooney was happy with what they were able to do in the game and to see their work on the training pitch pay off.
The ex-Manchester United forward said: “I think he [Waghorn] has been excellent in training alongside Lee Gregory, and that’s why they both started the game.
“The goal he scored is something we have worked on in training, getting our strikers in between the posts, so they are in better areas to score.
“It was the perfect start from that point of view; it’s a shame that they have both gone off with hamstring injuries. They’ll almost certainly be out for the game on Monday.”
On Teden Mengi’s future
Rooney was asked why Teden Mengi, after putting in a couple of solid displays in defence in the last couple of games, did not start this one.
“I think he [Mengi] has been excellent in the games he has played,” explained Rooney. “What I wanted from today is to go back to the back four and goalkeeper who got us a lot of clean sheets early on from when I first came into the job.
“Of course, it was very harsh on Teden but there the decisions I am paid to make, and I felt they were the right ones certainly for today.”
Despite dropping the on-loan United defender, Rooney was full of praise for the 18-year-old and said he hopes to extend his loan into next season.
“He is a player I am hoping to keep here for next season; he has gone from playing U20 football to playing competitive football where there is a lot at stake.
“I think he is getting good minutes, but I must protect him as well. He’s improved a lot and show he can play at this level.”
On Lawrence’s long-awaited return
The Welsh international played a solid 84 minutes of football against Luton, starting his first game since December, winning the penalty, which Shinnie subsequently converted early in the second-half.
Rooney was impressed with Tom Lawrence's output and hopes to keep him fit and firing, especially with the injuries suffered in his area of the pitch during the game.
“I thought Tom did really well,” insisted Rooney. “He tired a bit towards the end, but a lot of the moments we had in the game came through Tom and his quality.
“I was delighted that he got a start last week for Wales and got some minutes in and didn’t play on Tuesday, so he got a good week’s rest.
“It’s a massive plus for us to have him back, and the minutes he played today will only help him match fitness-wise. He can create chances and score goals.”