Prior to the visit of Cardiff City last Tuesday, Derby County faced a season-defining five days.
After three successive defeats, Gary Rowett’s side needed to get back on track with time fast running out in the race for the Sky Bet Championship play-offs.
With the pressure on, the Rams produced two of the most impressive performances of the season so far – with a crucial come-from-behind victory against the Bluebirds before a battling point was earned against Aston Villa on the road.
Here, we take a look at the key numbers behind a crucial period of the campaign…
Back In Form
“Both of our strikers are coming into form at the right time – Nuge has scored two in two, and now Cammy has three in two.” - Gary Rowett
Between the 3-0 victory against Brentford at the start of February and the trip to Burton Albion in mid-October, Derby’s strikers failed to find the net
Sam Winnall’s season-ending injury was also a blow, but Rowett was encouraged by a series of strong all-round displays from his forwards and now, David Nugent and Cameron Jerome have added the goals that their performances deserved.
Nugent found the net against Burton and Middlesbrough, whilst Jerome fired his side to a memorable victory against Cardiff before a superb opener against Villa.
With a crucial game against Barnsley to follow at the weekend, the forwards really have hit form at just the right time.
New Role, Fresh Impact
One man to thrive since Rowett’s decision to switch to a 3-4-3 formation is Andre Wisdom.
With renewed license to push forward from right wing-back, Wisdom created two goals against Cardiff, both of which were born out of sheer persistence.
With eight minutes to go, the defender robbed Yanic Wildschut of possession inside his own penalty area before squaring perfectly for Matej Vydra to fire home his 20th league goal of the season.
Then, in added time, his long ball forward was ideal for Jerome to chase and the striker held off the weak challenge of Sean Morrison before securing the points.
Free To Roam
Tom Lawrence has been playing with similar freedom since he moved to an inside-forward role, but he has backed up his attacking influence with increased defensive work.
His and Andreas Weimann’s work-rate in forward positions helped to build a raucous atmosphere against Cardiff, but the ball retention rate of the Welshman has been most impressive over the two games.
Against Villa, Lawrence completed 95% of his passes, misplacing just one before he was substituted on 68 minutes.
Over the two vital fixtures, the forward completed 11 of his 15 attempted dribbles; a hugely impressive figure given that it was one more than he had recorded in the previous nine games.
Impact Off The Bench
Decisive contributions from the bench were one of the key aspects of Derby’s strong run of form earlier in the season.
However, after Weimann scored the final goal in the 3-0 win against Birmingham City back in January, the Rams had to wait over three months for another goal off the bench.
Vydra couldn’t have timed his impact much better though, as he stung Cardiff in the last 10 minutes with a clinical finish, which was his 20th in the league so far this season.
The strike made him just the second Derby man in the past 20 years to reach that landmark, along with Chris Martin, who managed it during the 2013/14 season.
Leading The Pack
Curtis Davies produced another superb defensive performance against his former club on Saturday, and his defensive performance took him to the top of a leaderboard that he has been used to topping in recent years.
The centre-back has made 122 interceptions in the Championship this season; more than any other player. He also topped the charts in the Premier League last season, with 90 in just 26 games for Hull City.