No wins from the last six games has left Steve McClaren's Derby County five points adrift of the automatic promotion places in the Sky Bet Championship table, and the boss of top two rivals Middlesbrough - who themselves beat the Rams at the iPro Stadium 1-0 a week ago - Aitor Karanka has admitted this week he had expected more of the Midlanders.
Speaking to the Derby Telegraph, Karanka said: "I thought a month ago that Derby would be [promoted] but they have a lot of injured players and they are losing games. Now Bournemouth with Norwich are the teams which have the better fixtures. Bournemouth are one of the biggest candidates (for promotion)."
Karanka's comments hint that he has dismissed the Rams' challenge, and also suggest he would agree with criticism that ex-England boss McClaren did not act quickly to replace injured strikers Chris Martin and Darren Bent.
Derby's goal threat has completely dried up in the last six games, with just three goals being scored and four of those games ending in defeat. Derby have also missed defender Jake Buxton and midfielders John Eustace and George Thorne through injury in recent weeks.
While Aston Villa loanee Darren Bent returned to the team in Friday night's 2-0 defeat at Wolves, top scorer Chris Martin is still nursing his hamstring injury, though he is expected to return to first team action over the crucial Easter period.