CRAIG Forsyth says it is “massively pleasing” that Derby County have ended the year in an automatic promotion spot – but called for focus as they bid to stay there in 2014.
The Rams’ 2-1 win over Barnsley at Oakwell on Sunday saw them climb up to second place in the Championship table.
Steve McClaren’s men have now won eight games in a nine-match unbeaten run.
Confidence and expectations around the club have understandably been rising but the players have to remain on an even keel.
“Obviously, it’s massively pleasing to finish the year second in the table,” said left-back Forsyth.
“But nothing is decided yet, so we’ve got to keep our heads down, stay focused and keep doing what we’ve been doing to stay there.”
Chris Martin’s brace put Derby in control against bottom-of-the-table Barnsley but a goal from former Rams player Tomasz Cywka set up a tense finish.
“We knew it would be a tough one and with Barnsley’s situation, we knew we’d have to dig in,” said Forsyth.
“In the first half, we started well and played some good stuff.
“We just couldn’t get the second goal before half-time but we got it early in the second half and it seemed to settle us down.
“When they scored, it was a bit harum-scarum for a few minutes but we saw it through.”
Cywka’s fine solo effort came at a time when Derby had looked like adding a third goal themselves.
“Fair play to the lad but I’m sure we’ll look back and see things we could have done better,” said Forsyth.
“At 2-0, it’s always the same. The third goal is the big one.
“If you make it 3-0, you’re really comfortable but if it goes 2-1, they get a lift and you sink a bit.
“So we had to stand up in the face of long balls and whatnot but we did it.
“I think the belief and togetherness comes from the results and that confidence allows you to see out little spells like that.”
Derby led 1-0 at half-time against Barnsley, just as they did at Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day, when they were pegged back and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
“We said at half-time that it was the same situation but we knew what we did wrong at Huddersfield and what we had to do this time - and I think we did it better,” said Forsyth.
“We knew they would change from the first half and we just had to keep playing the way we did.
“It’s another win and another game unbeaten, so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Derby take on Wigan Athletic at the iPro Stadium today, kick-off 3pm, in their first game of the new year.
The Rams beat the Latics 3-1 at the DW Stadium at the start of December, which led to the sacking of Owen Coyle.
Under new boss Uwe Rosler, FA Cup holders Wigan are unbeaten in four games – winning two and drawing two.
Their previous two matches have ended in goalless draws - at home to Birmingham City and Burnley.
“We know what Wigan are capable of and we know what we have to do, too,” said Forsyth.
“We’ll be concentrating on what we do, first and foremost, and hopefully it will be enough to get the three points.”
After today’s game, the Rams will turn their attention to Sunday’s mouth-watering FA Cup third round tie at home to Premier League giants Chelsea.
“That’s a bonus and we need to make sure we look after the Wigan game first,” said Forsyth.