First Team Coach Paul Simpson says Derby County’s players have been challenged to bounce back from their successive league defeats to Wigan Athletic and Leicester City at the start of 2014.
Derby currently sit fourth in the Sky Bet Championship and Simpson insists the back-to-back defeats have not dampened spirits within the camp.
The Rams return to action on Saturday at the iPro Stadium against a Brighton & Hove Albion outfit that broke into the top six for the first time this season with a 1-0 win over Birmingham City last weekend.
Simpson believes the squad is capable of returning to the form that saw them win eight and draw one of their nine matches from mid-November through to the end of 2013 – and says the challenge is to replicate that sort of form for the rest of the season.
“What we have to remember is that we’re still in a healthy position and the players have earned the right to be fourth in the table,” he told Rams Player.
“We worked so hard to get into the position we’re in now and I suppose the challenge to the players is to produce those performances and results again.
“We want to see if we can take it up a notch further for the last 21 matches as well.
“If we do that, we’d like to feel we’d still be, at least, in fourth position, which would be a fantastic achievement for everyone.”
After the disappointing nature of last Friday’s 4-1 reverse at Leicester City, Simpson says the key to recovering from the defeat has been to focus on putting the wrongs right against Brighton.
He also feels a clash with a side also occupying a top six spot could be the perfect game for the Rams to return to winning ways.
He said: “In football when you have a disappointing result you have to, in some ways, just get on with it.
“That said, we had a horrible journey back from Leicester and it wasn’t pleasant sitting and watching the game back on the laptop but it was important to analyse things.
“However, you have to move on because the preparation for the next game is so important.
“Brighton coming to the iPro Stadium this weekend is a great game to look forward to.
“We have to dust ourselves down, clear our heads and get down to work again.”
He added: “I know Steve McClaren has mentioned it in previous interviews but it has been nice to have a full week with the players for the first time in about three weeks and put some intensive training on.
“That’s because we’ve had the games coming thick and fast since Doncaster onwards and the players have thrived on that hard work and guidance on the training ground, which we hope will bear fruit this
Watch more from Paul Simpson in an exclusive interview on Rams Player.