It was only a few weeks ago McLaren’s rejuvenated Derby side were pushing for an automatic promotion place that would see them rejoin England’s top flight, 7 years after recording the worst points total in Premier League history. Recent results however have seen their hopes of avoiding the play-offs look increasingly slim with the Rams only picking up 2 points in March so far. The game against 2nd place Burnley away was always going to be tough and was made even more of an uphill climb with Chris Martin’s sending off reducing the away side to 10 men before the break. I’m sure that no-one was hitting the panic button at that point with Derby’s form being generally very impressive. You wouldn’t have predicted that result at Burnley would be followed by a shock 1-0 defeat against Millwall at home, and two bore draws against Bolton and Reading to follow.
They have simply not been scoring enough and it’s not just in march this has been the case. They may have won all three games before the trip to Burnley but each of those was a tight 1-0 victory. Now while the realist will say ‘a win is a win’ and that the 3 points is the most important thing, it’s becoming very noticeable that one of the highest scoring teams in the Championship has now only scored 3 goals in their last 7 games. It can’t be said it’s due to lack of opportunity as a lot of Derby’s build up play of late has been at a very high standard, but they’ve just been lacking that final ball or that finishing touch on enough occasions. Not the greatest run-in to what is always one of the fiercest games of the season for the Rams as they host local rivals Nottingham Forest.
However it’s not all doom and gloom. In the last few matches Derby may not have been anywhere near their best going forward, but they have remained relatively solid at the back. Richard Keogh’s return after short injury spell and Jake Buxton’s outstanding form this season give a real sense of solidarity in the centre. Derby will be hoping the passion of this old rivalry with inspire them to rediscover their attacking form and sink a similarly struggling Forest side.
With 10 games left Derby would surely need to win every game and still rely on a series of Burnley slip ups to have any hope of automatic promotion. It seems almost guaranteed that Burnley will hold on to that second place spot and unless Derby break out of this bad run, they might find themselves going backwards in the table instead. One thing’s for sure, Saturdays game against Forest is set to be a big one.