Is McClaren right to gamble on Derby's injured strikers?

Derby County West Stand

Derby drew another blank in Tuesday night's 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough, but Steve McClaren is buoyed by the imminent return of his injured strikers.

The loss of 16-goal top scorer Chris Martin and loanee Darren Bent - who provided seven goals in 10 appearances following his January arrival from Aston Villa - has coincided with a dramatic loss of form for the Rams as they have collected just two wins from the last nine Sky Bet Championship games.

This leaves Derby in fifth place and five points behind the automatic promotion places that looked their natural home back in January.

McClaren chose not to re-enter the loan market when Martin and Bent fell injured, claiming there was a dearth of quality available. Instead the ex-England boss decided to ride out the period and deploy Johnny Russell in a striker's role. However, the current winless run of five games has seen Derby score just three goals - two in the draw with Birmingham and an own goal at Norwich City - and last night's setback at home to promotion rivals Middlesbrough saw just two shots on target for the Rams. The loss was compounded by the decisive goal coming from ex-Derby loan man Patrick Bamford.

Now McClaren is putting his faith in the upcoming international break and the respite should bring Martin and Bent back into the fold afterwards to reinvigorate his side's flagging promotion charge. McClaren was bullish in talking to BBC Sport: "We'll have our injured players back after the international break that is coming up and I have no doubt that we will come back strong. Nothing is settled by any means. There are eight games to go and believe me, there will be many a twist and turn to come in this division."

Before the international break, however, Derby must visit Wolves on Friday night in a perilous fixture that sees Kenny Jackett's men on a charge for a play-off spot. Tuesday night's 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday put Wanderers just three points away from the play-off places and only five behind Derby themselves.

McClaren can ill afford another blank from his team, regardless of the upcoming comfort of the international break.  

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