RamsTV pundit Shane Nicholson says he’s encouraged by what he’s seen from Derby County going forward in recent weeks.
Derby are currently in the midst of their third international break of the 2019/20 campaign and return to action next Saturday with a home fixture against high-flying Preston North End.
Phillip Cocu’s side picked up six points from a possible 15 during their five matches between the October and November international breaks.
The six points came in back-to-back home successes against Wigan Athletic and Middlesbrough, while Derby’s away form continued to hinder their progress with losses at Charlton Athletic, Hull City and Nottingham Forest.
However, Nicholson has seen enough signs of progress to suggest that Derby are close to clicking and picking up consistent results both at Pride Park Stadium and on the road.
The main reason for encouragement for the former Rams defender is the volume of opportunities being created, particularly with Cocu reverting to a two-man attack of Chris Martin and Jack Marriott in recent games.
“Looking at the last three games we have managed something like 19 shots on target,” Nicholson told this week’s Derby County Show.
“For me, that shows that we are making progress. Against Forest last weekend we had 11 shots and seven of them were on target as well, which tells you the team is creating chances.
“If one of those goes in then it really does take the pressure off. The big thing is the side is creating opportunities. We’re hitting the target, but we know it’s about sticking the ball into the back of the net.
“When you’re creating chances and you’re not taking them, as the game goes on it does add that bit of pressure to the goalkeeper and back four. It’s natural in a game for that to happen.”
He added: “Look at last season. We’d get a wonder goal out of nowhere and that eased that pressure.
“It helps relax you to play the football we want to play from the back, which we saw from Derby last season too. It’s not like what they are being told to do this season is any different.”
Nicholson, who played 87 times for Derby between 1992 and 1996 and made almost 600 career appearances in the professional game at left full-back, has also seen positives in the side’s general performances of late.
He feels that the Rams, under Cocu’s guidance, are certainly moving in the right direction.
“In the last three games I have seen an identity in the team and how they want to play,” the 49-year-old explained.
“The evidence is there in the performances, so we are moving in the right direction. I am sure the manager has learnt a lot about the division and his squad in these opening months.
“Obviously we just need to cut out these little errors that we are making in games. Don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes, but they are just proving to be costly for us right now.”