Derby continue to struggle as play-offs loom

Derby County stadium entrance

The Rams go into the last six weeks of the season in desperate need for points to ensure their play-off position.

With the appointment of Paul Clement in June 2015, many tipped Derby County to be strong promotion candidates.

Exciting young players were brought in, such as Tom Ince and Bradley Johnson, and the Rams began their assault on the Championship.

After a good start, Derby once again flattered too deceive, as they fell away from the top of the league, hanging on to the play-off places by their fingernails.

This is Derby's eighth season back in England's second tier since their Premier League horror show in which they won only one game all season, and they do not seem to be learning from their mistakes.

In what may turn out to be a huge result for both sides, Derby lost 2-1 to Cardiff City on Saturday, with the Welsh side closing the gap on their promotion rivals to just two points.

This season is eerily similar to the one in 2013/14, when Steve McClaren's men charged out of the blocks early on, only to capitulate before eventually losing in the play off final to Queens Park Rangers.

From the start of the following September, the Rams went on a fantastic run, winning 13, drawing five and losing just once.

The rot set in, however, and from the start of January they went seven Championship games without a win, and Paul Clement was sacked.

The exciting football witnessed at the start of the campaign seems to have been replaced by a more pragmatic approach.

They led the league on two separate occasions this season, but now find themselves in the perilous position they are in, where any slip up could be prove costly. They are on a terrible run of form with just four wins from their last 15 games, and they will be looking to reverse that form in their last seven games.

Their next game is a tough home test against Hull City before a run of three games against teams in the bottom six. Then they will welcome Sheffield Wednesday to the iPro Stadium, in what could prove to be a play-off place decider. They finish their season with games against Brighton & Hove Albion and Ipswich Town.

The last 10 years have seen 10 managerial changes at Derby, and surely continuity is something the board will prioritise if the Rams fail to achieve promotion this term.

Derby fans will hope that a good end to the season can give their players the confidence boost required to achieve success in the play-offs, but due to past experience, they will not be taking anything for granted.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch