Just days ago we were talking about looking over our shoulders towards the relegation zone but after a spirit lifting victory over promotion chasing Leicester City many people have changed their outlook of how the season could pan out for the Rams.
Yesterday we saw encouraging characteristics from the team that have been missed during the dreadful run of form, such as the ability to hold on to the lead despite opposition pressure – something the squad have come unstuck with recently. The defence were outstanding, shutting out anything they could – Richard Keogh and Jake Buxton had a great game. Chris Martin also had a good game last night, hopefully his loan is extended soon as he’ll be key if Derby are to pick up some more points in the remaining games. Having both Jamie Ward and Craig Bryson back yesterday was also a huge boost, hopefully Ward’s early second half exit isn’t serious – presumably a precautionary.
Just eight games remain in the season, meaning 24 points are still to be played for. The Rams currently lie in 13th place with 48 points, now six points above the bottom three and eleven points off the top six. Just one of the eight remaining games is against a current top half side and that’s against Leeds United, who are win-less in their last four matches and a team that have a habit of losing to the Rams who have beat the Whites eight times out of the last eight meetings.
The eight final games are home – Bristol City (currently 24th), away – Leeds United (currently 10th), home – Ipswich Town (currently 19th), away – Blackburn Rovers (currently 18th), away – Barnsley (currently 20th), home – Peterborough United (currently 22nd), away – Blackpool (currently 17th) and home – Millwall (currently 14th).
The teams left to play are quite low down so that makes the games seem more winnable for Derby but, equally, you could say the low down sides will play a raised game due to being in a relegation scrap and the ever-shortening time left of the season. I believe it’ll be a strong end to the season, last night reminded me that Derby are a very good side at this level and can compete with the best.
My prediction is that we’ll finish in the top ten, it’s possible and looking at our remaining opponents it looks even more so. Our away form isn’t the best but I’d still fancy us to pick up some points on the road. I certainly don’t think we’ll make the play-offs though. Having said all this we still must look over our shoulders because just a couple of points dropped can put you right back down there, the league is incredibly tight and re-shuffles every matchday.
I still stand by my views that I wrote prior to yesterday’s game in an article on here. Three or four additions are needed to bolster the squad, particularly players with experience at this level to balance the average age a bit more – youth can be good but, as we’ve seen, they struggle to maintain form and consistency for longer stretches. Additions should have been made in January, had that happened then we could be talking about a much more realistic chance of finishing in the top six. It does seem the board haven’t learned from their mistakes of not doing so in previous years.
Anyway, there’s quite a while (well, in footballing terms!) to the next match (V Bristol City – 29 March) so good luck to all the Rams out on international duty between now and then. Let’s get behind the team and hope for a strong end to the season, hopefully the foundations to build for a more sustained push next season.
Up the Rams!