10:00 Saturday 21 December 2013

Derby defender Jake Buxton battles to stay in the starting XI

Written byCHRIS WATSON

FIGHTER . . . Derby defender Jake Buxton FIGHTER . . . Derby defender Jake Buxton

JAKE Buxton says he is ‘fighting every day’ to keep his place in the Derby County side.

Buxton was initially replaced by on-loan defender Zak Whitbread following Steve McClaren’s appointment as Rams head coach.

But the former Burton Albion centre-back was soon restored to the starting line-up after Whitbread suffered a calf injury in October.

Buxton has started the Rams’ last eight games and the team is currently on a six-match winning streak.

But with Whitbread closing in on a return to fitness and another centre-half, Michael Keane, having been signed on loan from Manchester United, competition for places is high.

Buxton was brought to the club by previous manager Nigel Clough, who he also worked under at Burton.

“I know that I’m going to be up against it, being the previous manager’s signing and him being a massive part of the reason I came to the club,” said the 28-year-old.

“But I want to be here as long as possible.

“This is my fifth season and I’d love to stay for another five.

“As I’ve done since the day I came to this club, I’ll fight every day for my shirt.

“If it means I’m in competition for my place, I’ll work my hardest to try to stay in the side.”

As well as winning games, Derby have tightened up defensively of late, conceding only three goals during their six-game run.

“I don’t think my performances have changed over the course of the season – it’s just the results have,” said Buxton.

“People will look at the results and say we’re doing a good job, but I feel my performances have been to a high standard from the very first day.

“But this is when you have to keep on your toes, because sometimes you have a lapse or make a mistake.

“So you have to make sure your standards remain high.

“We’ve got a long way to go and there will be times when people come in or out of the side.

“It’s all about how you react to that.”

Impressive as Derby’s current run may be, it is not the best Buxton has experienced during his playing career, by a long shot.

He was part of the Burton side that won 12 league matches in a row when the Brewers won promotion to the Football League back in the 2008/09 season.

Buxton said: “That was a club record, so we’ll have to go some way to match that!

“Having said that, the further you get down the line, the more you get into a groove.

“So we’ll try to not do anything too different and maintain the standards we’re setting.

“We’ll keep doing that and see how far this run takes us.

“We want to keep this vibe going and stay on this little wave we’re riding.”

Today’s opponents, Doncaster Rovers, are currently fifth from bottom, three points clear of the relegation zone.

“Everybody expects us to get a result against Donny and Barnsley (on December 29), because of where they are in the division,” said Buxton.

“They’re the ones that are stumbling blocks, because these are teams that are fighting for their lives and they can often find that bit extra from somewhere.

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves and think we’re better than we are.

“I’m sure the manager and his staff will be making sure we keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

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