Festive Fixtures – can Derby continue the impressive run?

Six wins in a row. Fourth place. Three points off the top two. Eight wins from ten under the new regime. The Rams’ rampant form makes for pleasant reading.

“Santa, Derby to win promotion is top of my list. Don’t you dare tell me I’ll have to settle for an X-Box!”

Thick and fast, the festive fixtures are almost here. For some, things start to catch up with them and fatigue plays a part, other flourish and benefit from the strugglers’ subsequent magnified frailties and, as always, some clubs experience a hit and miss time.

What’s for sure is that the period will be a test for Steve McClaren and co, I’m sure we’ll learn more about his methods and even gain from the better sized and strengthened squad.

Tomorrow the Rams entertain Doncaster Rovers. Attacking talisman Chris Martin is a doubt.

Paul Dickov’s side are currently in 20th place and are without a win in their last six trips on the road. Theo Robinson (remember him?) is Rovers’ top scorer. Sod’s law often means ex-players score against their former employers, however, a fortnight ago, I said Steve Davies, returning with Blackpool, would score – he didn’t.

After Christmas the side make two trips to Yorkshire; the first of which is to Huddersfield Town, followed by a trip to Barnsley, where they’ll be buoyed by a large travelling contingent from Derby. The Terriers sit in 12th as things stand, while the Tykes are bottom.

Despite their league positioning, I feel that Barnsley are a side that can never be underestimated. They’re a funny side. You never know what to expect from them, they may roll over or cause an upset. Just don’t take them lightly, then again that can be said for every game in the Championship!

Craig Bryson’s recent form is starting to gain plaudits. Hands off him in January. For me, he has been the club’s best player so far this season.

Back on home soil for New Year’s day, the FA Cup holders come to town! Exciting, isn’t it? No, actually, Wigan Athletic were victorious at Wembley – those dizzy heights seem distant as a recent managerial change illustrated how they’ve struggled to make the adaptions to Championship life and succeed in a European and domestic juggling act. Anyway, the Latics are in 14th spot.

League fixtures against the 20th, 12th, 24th and 14th sides would seem routine for a team in such form but, of course, it’s the Championship. Derby must keep grounded. Nonetheless I can’t help myself from thinking of getting into that top two before the year’s out and then there’s the Cup tie to look forward to; Chelsea’s midweek League Cup defeat to Sunderland gives further cause for hope.

Moreover, the transfer window’s just around the corner. There’s transfer talk of Conor Sammon leaving in the forthcoming window and a Premier League replacement lined up. Additionally, keeping hold of the assets will be pivotal. On the ins, Derby are now a more attractive club for better players to come in to – just look at Andre Wisdom’s arrival, would he have arrived under Nigel Clough?

On a final note, merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Bring on 2014 – the year that sees the Rams return to the top flight?

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