AITOR KARANKA said he was proud of his team’s performance after playing more than half of last night’s defeat at Derby with ten men.

For the second away game in a row, Karanka saw one of his men sent off when Curtis Main was dismissed for two yellow cards.

Both bookings seemed harsh on the 21-year-old and despite a spirited display in the second half, the Teessiders left Derby empty-handed after late goals in each half from Chris Martin and Connor Sammon cancelled out Dean Whitehead’s equaliser.

The defeat leaves Boro 16th and they sit just four points above the bottom three despite improved performances under their new manager.

Even though they returned to Teesside beaten Karanka was happy with his team’s performance.

“It was unlucky,” the Spaniard said. “I just have one feeling. I am very happy because the team confirmed to me that they are together and again they played very well with ten men. We’ve lost but we must keep on working.

“It is one game which we could have won. The team was fantastic with ten men. We have made mistakes in other games but we made no mistakes in this game. It was mistakes of others.”

The turning point was undoubtedly Main’s sending-off, but Karanka defended his striker.

He said: “I don’t understand the decision to send Curtis off.

I didn’t like it. I’m not too sure why he was sent off.

“I like Curtis since the first day because he always works very hard and fights for every ball, but he’s young.

“He needs to improve and needs to learn, but I am very happy with him. He needs to learn, because when you have one yellow card you have to be more careful, but he was unlucky.”

Even with his side a man down, Karanka made a positive change at half time by bringing on Mustapha Carayol for Jacob Butterfield.

The change appeared to pay off when Carayol was involved in Whitehead’s equaliser.

The Spaniard added: “The most attacking player I had on the bench was Muzzy (Carayol).

Adomah and Kei (Kamara) had a lot of work to do when we went down to ten men so I thought Muzzy would be able to support them.

“He worked very well, he kept the ball and I’m happy with the work of all the team.”