NIGEL Clough believes his Derby County team has shown great maturity on their visits to the City Ground to face rivals Nottingham Forest, writes STEVE NICHOLSON.
Derby have won on their last two trips down the A52. Craig Bryson scored the only goal of the game last season and Jeff Hendrick hit the winner in a 2-1 victory the previous season.
The Rams have a very healthy recent record at Forest. Four wins in six visits have come under Clough.
The sequence started in February 2009 with a 3-2 win in an FA Cup replay, Derby’s first victory on the ground of their fierce rivals since 1971.
They return to the venue to face Forest at lunchtime today, kick-off 12.15pm), and Clough says it is difficult to put his finger on why Derby have done so well at Forest in his time as manager.
He said: “We have risen to the occasion and played well when we needed to.”
It is ironic that talk of Derby’s ‘maturity’ comes at the end of a week when the Rams have shown their naivety, according to Clough.
“It is strange we are going into this game talking about our naivety at times in the last couple of matches against Reading and Leicester City,” said Clough.
Derby lost 3-1 at home to Reading a week ago and led Leicester 1-0 in Tuesday’s Capital One Cup tie at the King Power Stadium before being sunk by two late goals in a four-minute spell.
Both Leicester goals came from free kicks Clough felt were needlessly conceded. Anthony Knockaert thumped the first of the set pieces past Lee Grant before Danny Drinkwater diverted a Matty James free kick beyond Grant.
“We have shown a degree of maturity at
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the City Ground in recent seasons and we need to show it every week, rather than just on some occasions,” added Clough, who says his players fully understand the Derby versus Forest occasion.
“It is important to everybody,” he said.
“I’m not sure about the 12.15pm kick-off time but it will still be quite a fiery encounter, we expect. We could kick off at 3am in the morning and I think it would still be the same!
“You have to relish games like this. You have to relish the competition, the atmosphere. You have got to relish it rather than fear it.
“I think sometimes the inter-city ‘derbies’ are a bit more intense than the same-city ‘derbies’. When there is that half-hour divide it can intensify things, like Liverpool against Manchester United.”
Three games in eight days against Reading, Leicester and Forest has been a demanding sequence of matches. They are three clubs Clough believes will be in the top six come the end of the season.
“The three teams who have beaten us at home this season - Burnley, Leicester and Reading - are all in the top seven,” said Clough.
“We are contributing a bit to our downfall at the moment. We are using the phrase ‘we are beating ourselves’, and I think we are.
“We also feel we are getting punished for every little thing.”