Graeme Shinnie says Derby County will need to be at their very best when they welcome automatic promotion contenders Brentford to Pride Park Stadium this weekend.
Derby take on the Bees in front on the Sky Sports cameras in the Sky Bet Championship’s lunchtime kick-off on Saturday (12:30pm kick-off).
Brentford are third in the table and are making a strong push for automatic promotion behind West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United, having won their last six league fixtures.
Derby, meanwhile, are three points adrift of Cardiff City in the final play-off spot with four games remaining.
They tasted defeat in the Championship for the first time in seven games, having won five and drawn one in their previous six outings, with a 2-0 loss at West Brom on Wednesday.
While Derby were naturally disappointed to see their unbeaten run come to an end, their form throughout 2020 has been positive and it has pushed them into the top-six race.
Shinnie says an encounter against another of the division’s leading sides means the Rams have to pick themselves up quickly and prepare for another big game.
“Sometimes they (playing the top teams) are better games,” Shinnie told RamsTV.
“You know you need to be right at the top of your game if we want to beat them; that can be a good thing.
“We need to dust ourselves down because there are a lot of hard games coming up and we have a goal to achieve which is to get in the play-offs.
“We need to focus on ourselves and try to get back to winning ways. After that, the next game comes around thick and fast so it’s about picking up points as quick as we can.”
He added: “Our sole focus, and I know it’s a cliché in football, is just the next game. We have had a loss now so it’s important we try and bounce back with a win.
“It’s so tight in and around the last play-off spot and there are so many teams in and amongst it so I don’t think you can look elsewhere.”
Shinnie made his first start since the resumption of the season, following the COVID-19 outbreak, in the midweek clash at the Hawthorns.
Derby enjoyed long spells of possession against the Baggies, but Shinnie admits the side lacked a cutting edge in the final third.
“I think we did well to a point,” Shinnie said.“I don’t think we hurt them enough in the final third or were as much of a threat in the final third to score goals, which is frustrating.
“In terms of passing and having possession of the ball, it was good but like I said, it’s not so good when you don’t have the penetration up front and we always need that.
“There is no time to rest on it and we need to focus now on the next game which will be another tough game, but one we need to put right.”
Shinnie has made 23 appearances in all competitions for Derby in the 2019/20 season, scoring once.