The Rams are still in one of the automatic promotion places though they have conceded their lead to Middlesbrough after back-to-back defeats.
“Will the promotion race go to the wire? I think so. The top seven or eight teams are capable of getting into the play-offs,” said McClaren.
“It is going to be who holds their nerve, who keeps away from injuries and who gains momentum at the right time.”
The ideal situation for Derby would be to get back to winning ways quickly against Birmingham this weekend.
That would allow them to build some momentum and consolidate in the top two over the rest of the season.
There is a good blend of experience and young talent in Derby’s squad, which means Rams fans should be confident the side can hold their nerve.
Unfortunately, Derby have already been hit by injuries in a key position with Chris Martin fighting to get back to full fitness while Darren Bent is currently out of action.
McClaren may feel that the slight blip which has just plagued the club has come at the right time because there is still plenty of time for them to recover and react.
Had the defeats come in four or five games time, Derby would have been restricted in terms of the space and freedom they have to try and recover.