Derby County manager Nigel Clough says Rams' home form will be key
NIGEL Clough says Derby County's home form is key to keeping the Rams clear of serious trouble in the Championship.
But the manager warns: "We have to earn the right to stay in the division."
A run of eight games without a win has seen Derby slip to 15th.
They are now six points above the relegation zone and the gap could be less by the time they take on Leicester City at Pride Park tonight (kick-off 5.20pm).
Clough believes his team have enough in their locker to stay out of trouble.
"Our form in the first 30-odd games of this season has been good enough to suggest we can but we have to earn the right to stay in the division and we are going to try and do that," he said.
Five of Derby's final nine fixtures are at home against Leicester, Bristol City, Ipswich Town, Peterborough United and Millwall.
Four of the teams sat below the Rams before today's matches.
"Our home form suggests it will see us through – they are the games we are banking on," said Clough. "We just want the players to continue as we have been playing at home all season.
"We don't want them to think they have to do anything different than they have been doing in the first two-thirds of the season.
"We have only lost two or three at home this season. We just want to keep that going."
Asked if the late kick off against Leicester could add to the pressure depending on the results during the afternoon, Clough added: "It may do but we will not take too much notice of the other results. We will concentrate on ourselves."
The fitness of top scorer Jamie Ward (hamstring) and midfielder Craig Bryson (groin) will be checked on.
Both have missed the last two games.
"They are not far away and we will leave it until the last minute," said Clough.
"They have not done much training this week and we will weigh up the risk factor of playing them."
Defenders Kieron Freeman and Mark O'Brien have trained and will be in the squad but Derby are still without John Brayford (hamstring), Will Hughes (groin) and James O'Connor (knee).
Clough says talks are taking place with Norwich City over extending the loan stay of striker Chris Martin. Martin's one-month loan expires after today's game.