Tough tests ahead for Rams

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ON THE RAMPAGE - WITH GARETH DAVIS

ALL of a sudden, the pressure is back on the Rams as they go into successive home games against Birmingham and Cardiff in the next few days.

Away trips to Millwall and Crystal Palace on consecutive Saturdays were always going to be tough but defeats in both have stalled Derby’s recent momentum.

Nigel Clough’s men had only lost one in eight prior to last week’s trip to Millwall and would have been hopeful of getting something from Palace on Saturday, albeit against the in-form league leaders.

Sadly, it wasn’t Derby’s day at all as the Eagles showed why they are doing so well this season and I would fully expect them to be among the promotion contenders come May.

They were on form under Dougie Freedman and potentially looking like they could be the 2012/13 dark horses – every season has one – and I wondered how they would fare after Freedman went to Bolton.

Bringing in Ian Holloway was the best thing they could have done and, with his influence, I can see them having a great season.

But that isn’t really a concern for those of a Derby persuasion now. What is important is how the players bounce back from suffering two successive defeats for the first time this season.

The Rams’ last run of Saturday-Tuesday home games came after the unexpected reverse at Peterborough and they recovered superbly to win them both, beating Blackpool and Barnsley, so more of the same would be nice.

The Sky Sports cameras are at Pride Park tonight (Saturday) for the visit of Birmingham so not only is it important to put on a performance for their own good and for the supporters, but also to send a message to the rest of the Championship that Derby are not about to go through a major late-year slump – as they have done in the last couple of seasons.

Then life gets no easier with Cardiff coming up from South Wales on Tuesday night, but it’s all about Saturday first.