Nigel Clough has warned that “the Championship isn’t played on paper” as Derby County prepare for an end-of-season run-in that certainly looks more forgiving than their recent batch of games.
In their final eight matches, the Rams face just one team - Leeds United - currently above them in the second tier.
That may be something of a relief, given that in their previous eight games, they took on six of the teams challenging for the play-offs, with the other two being against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Birmingham City - both Premier League sides recently.
And Clough is keen for his side - currently 12th - to try and claim a final standing more befitting their performances this season.
He said: “We know we should be over the 50-point mark this season, the lads have done enough to deserve that, so we’ll crack on and go for it in the last eight.
“For everyone, especially the supporters, we don’t want to be scraping over the line at this stage.
“A couple of wins, at least, from the last eight will ease any concerns people have and we want to go out on a high going into the summer.
“We’ve got just one team currently above us to play, which is Leeds away a week on Monday, so we do have an opportunity to kick on and try and force our way into the top half.”
However, the former Burton Albion boss warned against complacency, especially given on how many occasions Derby have not got their just rewards in recent matches.
“The Championship isn’t played on paper and given the nature of how results have gone this season; we can’t sit here and say it’s an easier run than what we’ve had in our previous eight games,” he said.
“The Easter games (against Bristol City on Friday and Leeds on Monday) are very important for us.
“If we can nick something like four points during that run would put us in a good position to enjoy the last six matches.”
The Rams had briefly dropped to 18th in the Championship, and the prospect of another relegation scrap loomed, but victory over Leicester City last Saturday allayed those fears slightly ahead of the current international break.
And Clough admitted he was pleased not to be going into a two-week break on the back of a nine-game winless run.
On the Foxes win, he said: “It was as good a three points as we’ve had considering the circumstances.
“It was perhaps an ideal time to get the win as well; we really didn’t want to go into a 13-day break with the figure at nine matches.
“We didn’t think we deserved the run that we were on before Leicester and some of the games we lost and drew really should have been wins.
“We mentioned it last week before the game that a few of the players had said the run has crept up on us a bit, especially as we weren’t playing badly or getting thrashed.
“The lads weren’t down though; they were disappointed that they weren’t winning but the performances were to a certain standard, and we just had to go that extra yard to get a result.
“They were shattered beyond belief at full time and we said to them sometimes that is what it takes to win a game.
“Sometimes you’ll win and feel like you can play the next day, but there are occasions where you have to give every single ounce in your body to get the points.
“Everyone can come back next week now, as we’ve given the lads a few days off this week, with a different mindset and we’re looking forward to the last eight games of the season.”