HEAD coach Steve McClaren has again told his Derby County players they will need to be more ruthless if they are to secure promotion to the Premier League.
McClaren watched his side beat Watford 4-2 to record a fifth straight victory and clinch third spot in the Championship.
They must now wait until the final weekend of the League campaign before knowing who their opponents will be in the play-offs.
Derby fell behind to Troy Deeney’s early goal for Watford but drew level before the break thanks to Jeff Hendrick’s strike.
Craig Forysth put the Rams ahead and Watford found themselves reduced to 10 men when defender Marco Cassetti was sent off for a second yellow card, but the visitors then equalised through Mathias Ranegie’s header.
Hendrick’s second goal of the game, a superb 25-yarder, restored Derby’s lead and top scorer Chris Martin grabbed his 23rd of the season to make certain of the three points.
Happy with the win, McClaren was still left with concerns.
“For the second game in a row we’ve been sloppy – poor defending, giving the ball away, and it nearly cost us again,” he said.
“If we do that in the play-offs, there’s no chance we’ll go through.
“Credit to the players, they keep getting themselves out of a hole and getting the results but in terms of the way forward we certainly need to tighten up in a few areas.
“We scored four, but we’re not ruthless enough.
“It’s ruthlessness at both ends that we need. If we make those kind of mistakes in the play-offs it will make our job very difficult.
“What we have tried to do is provide consistency, not just in results but in performance and that’s what we need to get back to, making it difficult for opponents and not thinking we can just go out and out-score them.”
Martin’s tally of 23 goals includes 20 in the Championship following his finish against Watford.
No Rams player has scored more goals in a season since Paul Kitson hit 24 in all competitions in 1992-93.
“It’s fantastic for Chris, but I nearly took him off before he scored,” admitted McClaren.
“I wanted to see Patrick Bamford down the middle, so I am glad Chris got his goal and quickly made my mind up to take him off.”