Are Derby suffering the dreaded 'play-off hangover'?

Derby County are struggling to impress in the Championship, and sit mid-table three games in to the season.

The Rams endured the greatest heartbreak last season, losing in the Play-Off Final in the dying minutes - a Bobby Zamora goal enough to take QPR to the riches of the Premier League.

Despite the debilitating events surrounding their close to the season, many were listing Derby amongst their promotion favourites this year, with their playing squad considered one of the strongest in the league. Last seasons leading scorer Chris Martin remained with the club, whilst Jeff Hendrick, Will Hughes and 2013/14 Player of the Year Craig Bryson all signed contract extensions.

Their 2014/15 campaign opened with what was presumed to be an easy tie at home to newly promoted Rotherham United. However, it turned out to be harder than expected, and the Rams 1-0 victory was a hard fought encounter, with the Millers enjoying the best chances of the game - including forcing Derby into two goal line clearances.

Whilst it is a well known fact that to win Championship titles you must still win when you play badly, the lumbering performance put in by Steve McClaren's men was brushed off as merely a lack of match cohesion upon the opening day. However, the following two league fixtures have hinted at something deeper than that - the dreaded play-off hangover.

Last season, Watford were regarded as one of the favourites for promotion. Having also lost in the Play-Off Final 1-0, their squad was considered one of the strongest in the league, and their brand of attacking football was certain to storm the league to promotion.

However, they languished mid-table, and manager Gianfranco Zola left the club in December following a run of bad results.

It appears as if Derby are suffering from the same problem, and, with the pressure that comes from being Championship favourites, Steve McClaren should be doing all he can to turn things around on the pitch.

The Championship is highly regarded as anyone can beat anyone, and having the strongest team in the league offers no advantage when it comes to matchday. If Derby continue to rest on their laurels, their strong squad may just lose their promotion spot - and maybe even their manager.

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