Absence of the injured Sean Barker significant as Rams' defence struggles to keep out rivals
SHAUN Barker's absence from Derby County's defence has been highlighted in the past few weeks, according to manager Nigel Clough.
Twelve goals have been conceded in four consecutive away defeats – two at Millwall, three at both Peterborough and Crystal Palace, and four at Leicester last weekend.
Derby have also conceded an average of two goals per game in their last eight matches and have kept only three clean sheets in 21 attempts this season.
Almost nine months have passed since Barker smashed his knee during a home victory over Nottingham Forest.
The horrific injury has ruled him out for the whole of this season, although the 30-year-old defender is making steady progress on the road to recovery.
Clough says Barker has been missed.
"That is nothing against the other centre-halves, who have done well generally, but we would not be conceding so many goals if Shaun was around," added Clough.
Mistakes have proved costly in recent games but Clough says the errors have not only come from the centre-backs.
"The mistakes have been spread around," said Clough.
"Jimmy O'Connor made one on Saturday at Leicester and Richard Keogh lost his man on the first goal.
"Jake Buxton had a bad day at Palace, Adam Legzdins could have done better with Cardiff's goal and John Brayford has not stopped the crosses well enough.
"So it is more of a general thing."
Barker suffered a dislocated kneecap and ruptured medial, posterior and anterior crucial ligaments back in March.
He has gradually increased his rehabilitation programme over the last few weeks and has been using a Verti-Run machine, a vertical treadmill that allows him to bring a range of movement and flexibility gently back to his knee.
The Rams' head physio, Neil Sullivan, has been overseeing Barker's recovery.
"It is a big boost for Shaun to be able to do more physical work," said Sullivan.
"It is a great way for him to do fitness work without worrying about the impact that is going through his knee.
"We are very lucky and extremely grateful that Verti-Run have allowed us to use their system."