NIGEL Clough admitted that Derby County were “looking over their shoulders” following an eighth game without a victory on Saturday.
The Rams were beaten 3-1 by Birmingham City at St Andrews to drop them down to 15th in the Championship table despite another positive performance.
Ben Davies opened the scoring just before the break, but by then the visitors should have given themselves more than a one-goal cushion, something they were made to rue as Blues second-half substitutes Wes Thomas and Nathan Redmond saw the hosts fight back to win.
While there are six teams between Derby and the relegation zone, some of those sides have a game or two in hand, and a six-point gap is far from comfortable.
Clough said: “On 45 points there is certainly a lot more work to be done as we have been looking over our shoulders for some while.
We have not been looking up too often either.”
Prior to Saturday, Birmimgham had won just once at home since November – against the Rams bitter rivals Nottingham Forest – and Clough was disappointed his side did not go for the jugular when they had the chance.
He said: “We didn’t do enough to get more than the one goal today, especially in the first half, and despite dominating it took us until 40 minutes to get a goal when it should have been two or three really.
“It was the same old similar situation in that we didn’t take our chances.
“Although we are a fairly inexperienced team, the players have to realise that when a team is nervous at home you really need to take advantage of it and there weren’t enough of them who sensed that today.
“You aren’t going to have 90 minutes on top in a Championship game, especially away from home, so when you are in the ascendancy you need to take your chances, particularly when a team is struggling at home.
“More experienced players would have gone on and killed off the game.”
Derby were still missing a quartet of first-choice players against Birmingham and although those players – at an average age of just 23-and-a-half – are hardly drenched in experience, they have been four of the Rams best players this season.
Clough said: “When you’re without players like Craig Bryson, John Brayford, Will Hughes and Jamie Ward, it’s going to have an effect because they have quality in key areas.
“All teams have injuries but we’re finding it hard to win games without players of that quality and if they had been available we would have been confident of winning.
“We’re frustrated like you wouldn’t believe, which is how it has been for the last few weeks.
“It wasn’t a bad performance and we didn’t make any glaring errors out there, but we’ve been saying that over the course of the last few weeks and today’s game was there for the taking, which frustrates us so much.”