DUFFERS' DERBY DIARIES: Time for Rams to build crucial momentum

Fikayo Tomori (right) in action against Leeds. He scored his first Rams goal at Oldham in midweek.
Fikayo Tomori (right) in action against Leeds. He scored his first Rams goal at Oldham in midweek.

If there's one word I hear managers at all levels use frequently, it's 'momentum'.

Build plenty of it, and you can be on your way to a long winning streak. Lose it, and you can find yourself plummeting down the table in no time at all.

Derby County have only played three competitive games this season, winning two and losing one, and performances so far, particularly in the two league games, have often left fans a little concerned as to how long it might take this new blend of players to settle and start looking like a team that could challenge for the top spots.

You'd have expected the dramatic win at Reading to have had a hugely positive effect on the Rams going into the Leeds game last Saturday, although perhaps there being over a week between the fixtures didn't help, as instead those watching on saw a lethargic and disorganised performance play into the hands of their albeit impressive visitors.

Fast forward four days and the win at Oldham was a banana skin avoided, no doubt about that. Defeat there really could have seen morale drop considerably irrespective of the team put out by Lampard and where in the pecking order the Carabao Cup lies.

What's important now is that the win on Tuesday gives more belief to the Rams players than it seems the victory at Reading did, based on how they performed against Leeds. Oldham may only be in League Two but winning can become a habit and with a tough trip to Millwall upcoming, it's far more beneficial to go into it on the back of a victory.

With matches continuing to come in quick succession and Ipswich Town on the horizon next Tuesday before the visit of Preston four days later, all three of the games over the next week look, on paper, to be ones where Derby would be fancied to avoid defeat.

But it's never as simple as that and as Lampard tries to find his best eleven, which is a tricky task in itself given the players at his disposal, the Rams would do well in the meantime to avoid losing too much ground on the top six if that is to be where they want to end up. After all, 44 more games may sound a lot, but having to play catch-up will make them that bit harder.

I'd expect to see Scott Malone given the left-back berth at Millwall. Max Lowe looked promising in pre-season but struggled a bit in the opening games and, whilst a useful option to have available to Lampard and particularly while Craig Forsyth is out of the picture, I can't help but think another loan move may be the best thing for the young defender.

Richard Keogh didn't fill me with any confidence against either Reading or Leeds and will surely be the odd one out once Curtis Davies returns from injury to seemingly partner the impressive Fikayo Tomori in central defence. Keogh doesn't seem as suited to Lampard's way of playing and whilst the boss himself has been quick to highlight the 32-year-old's importance to the squad given his experience and leadership qualities, he can't allow him to become a liability if better options exist.

Tom Huddlestone has been a big miss in midfield and will be a welcome addition to sit in front of the back four once fit, which Lampard believes is close to happening, while up front, Martyn Waghorn will want to get firing quickly and has his old club Ipswich to face on Tuesday night which, you would think, will be a great chance to get his Pride Park account opened.

The next four games, even this early, will be crucial in terms of how this season might pan out. Six or seven points at least from the next 12 on offer look more than achievable going into the international break, and that word 'momentum' will be a big part in them achieving it.