Richard Keogh says Derby County’s players must step up individually and show bravery as they seek to return to winning ways in this weekend’s local derby clash at Nottingham Forest.
The latest instalment of the East Midlands derby will take place at the City Ground on Sunday afternoon (2:30pm kick-off).
Derby will make the short trip across Brian Clough Way looking to do the double over the Reds for the first time since 2011/12, after running out 2-0 winners at Pride Park Stadium back in October.
The Rams, sitting fifth in the Sky Bet Championship table, have drawn four and lost two of their last six matches and Keogh believes there would be no better place than the home of their local rivals to get back to winning form.
Ten games remain in the regular league campaign and the 31-year-old insists there’s all to play for – with Derby still very much in the thick of the promotion race.
The Republic of Ireland international, who recently signed a new deal with the Rams, says everyone in the Derby dressing room knows what’s required of them – on both Sunday and the weeks ahead.
He told RamsTV: “There would be no better place than Forest on Sunday to get that win that we want.
“We thought we had it on Tuesday night at QPR. It was a tight game and we dealt with everything that they threw at us. It was just unfortunate to concede right at the end, especially after being so comfortable.
“I have played in all of the games against Forest since I joined Derby are they are amazing to be part of. We had a good result against them earlier in the season and we know what to expect from these derby matches; we need to be ready for it and come Sunday we will be.
“We know that we’ve all got to step up individually and keep being brave. When you’re having a run like this it’s important to be brave as a player, demand the ball and do your job as best you can.
“Over a 40-50 game season you’re not going to be on top of your game for the entire time, even for the top players that’s very tough, so it’s vital to make sure you do all you can to help the team.
“There’s ten matches remaining and plenty of points left. We have to play quite a few teams in-and-around us; it’s exciting and gives us an opportunity to take some points off of them.”
There was naturally a hint of disappointment in the air following Derby’s 1-1 draw at Queens Park Rangers in midweek.
Andreas Weimann’s first-half goal looked to have been enough for Gary Rowett’s side in West London. However, the Hoops levelled with three minutes left to play to deny the Rams all three points.
Keogh felt Derby were more defensively sound at Loftus Road than in recent games and showed the sort of solidity which was one of the key foundations behind the side’s mid-season rise up the table.
Now the challenge is for the Rams to get back to keeping clean sheets on a regular basis, which they have already proved this season they are more than capable of doing.
He said: “We’ve gone over things as a defensive unit (from an analysis angle) and tried to pick out some different things.
“Some of the goals we have conceded lately have been unfortunate but that happens over the course of the season. We got away with a few things during the run where we were keeping clean sheets so it’s probably a case of swings and roundabouts in that sense.
“I think individually we’ve probably not been doing as well as we have been. During a long season that happens and we’re probably just getting punished for the things that we weren’t doing a few weeks ago.
“I thought we showed signs of us getting back to being back to that (more solid defensively) on Tuesday. We didn’t give away too many chances so that is why it was so frustrating to have conceded from a set-play late on.”