Derby manager Wayne Rooney admits his team are facing what could prove a “big turning point” in their season after a 1-0 win over Bristol City moved them five points clear of the Championship relegation zone.
Derby now face a rearranged game on Tuesday night at Rotherham who beat them at Pride Park two weeks ago.
Since then, Rooney has masterminded three straight wins and the latest was secured in the fourth minute when Colin Kazim-Richards side-footed in at the far post from Lee Buchanan’s cross.
Max Bird struck a post and City did not get in the game until after the lengthy stoppage which saw midfielder Krystian Bielik stretchered off in the 36th minute.
They should have equalised six minutes into the second half but Famara Diedhiou failed to make contact with a header and it needed a top save from Daniel Bentley to keep City in the game when he turned over a deflected shot from Martyn Waghorn.
David Marshall made a more routine save from Alfie Mawson five minutes from time but Derby were good value for the points.
Rooney said: “I think overall we deserved the win.
“We started the game very well, for 25, 30 minutes we were excellent, moved the ball well on a tricky pitch, created some good chances.
“I think the injury to Krystian took away a bit of our momentum and second half we played a bit more on the counter-attack.
“We are where we are and I’m not really focused on the league table at the minute. It’s great we’ve gone on a good run since the Rotherham game, nine points, but we’ve got a very important game against Rotherham coming up on Tuesday and I think that will be a big turning point in our season if we win that game.
“I’m delighted with the form of the players but we now have to focus on Tuesday and get ready to go into a very tough game “
Rooney is now waiting anxiously for news on Bielik, who was out for 10 months after injuring a knee last January.
He said: “He’s obviously not great, we’ll assess it over the next couple of days, I don’t know the full extent of the injury so just hope it’s not too serious because he’s been in great form and it would be a big loss for us.”
Bristol City head coach Dean Holden admitted his side had been second best.
“Nowhere near the level we would expect in our performance,” he said.
“They were the better team today, no doubt about that but all over the pitch our performance levels weren’t what they’ve been in the last couple of games.
“We just didn’t seem to have a spark in our performance and that’s surprising because in the last couple of games we’ve had some really good performances.
“We’ve had performances like that this season, we’ve struggled at times and if you are going to maintain a promotion push you’ve got to look for those consistent levels.
“It’s been a bad day for us, no doubt about that and we’ve got to respond now. We’ve got a big test on Wednesday night at Brentford, they’re a top team and we’ve got to find a response.”