The 2023/24 season will live long in the memory of all of those associated with Derby County Football Club.

It was the campaign that saw the Rams taste promotion for the first time in over 15 years and the first time they have done so automatically in almost 30 years!

However or whenever it was to be ultimately achieved, a return to the second tier was always going to be special, and that it certainly was.

There would be bumps along the way, as is football, but Paul Warne, his staff and the playing squad would never allow themselves to get too high or too low after results; an attitude that would pay dividends come 27th April 2024 when automatic promotion was sealed with a 2-0 home win over Carlisle United.

Over the coming days, will look back at how the season unfolded. From the feeling of ecstasy following some of those real key wins to that of agony after defeats, we’ll reflect on it all.

Here, we look at the first two months of 2024; January and February.

January Review

After an impressive conclusion to 2023, the Rams had put themselves in a strong position going into the New Year.

The run of good form had seen Derby move up to fourth going into the second half of the season, just two points off the automatic promotion places. However, as starts go, a clash with third-placed Peterborough United was as tough as it gets. Despite taking the lead twice on the day, both times through James Collins, the Rams would be pegged back and ultimately succumb to a 3-2 defeat when Ricky-Jade Jones struck deep into stoppage time.

Not to be demoralised by defeat to a promotion rival, Derby would respond immediately the following weekend with a convincing 3-1 victory away at Fleetwood Town. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, James Collins and Tom Barkhuizen struck in another impressive away win.

The Rams would exit the Bristol Street Motors Trophy at the Round of 16 stage a few days later following a 1-0 home defeat to Sky Bet League Two side Bradford City, but they once again responded in League One by seeing off local rivals Burton Albion 3-2 at Pride Park.

Warne’s men did face a scare on the night when the Brewers came back from 2-0 down to level things up in the second half, after Barkhuizen and Collins had struck, but skipper Conor Hourihane saved the day with a fine strike in added time to secure a vital important three points.

Back-to-back away trips followed, but the outcomes were far from desired. A gritty defensive performance saw the Rams play out a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Lincoln City on the Saturday before a midweek trip to Reading ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat.

There was a scare on hand in the final match of the month too when relegation threatened Cheltenham Town came to Derbyshire and took a second half lead through Liam Sercombe but two fine strikes; one from Max Bird and the other from Collins saw the Rams turn the game on its head to round off January with three points and end the month where they started it; in fourth position.

January Results

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 2-3 Peterborough United (1’ Collins, 60’ Collins)

Sky Bet League One – Fleetwood Town 1-3 Derby County (27’ Mendez-Laing, 45’ Collins, 90 Barkhuizen)

Bristol Street Motors Trophy Round of 16 – Derby County 0-1 Bradford City

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 3-2 Burton Albion (29’ Barkhuizen, 49’ Collins, 90’ Hourihane)

Sky Bet League One – Lincoln City 0-0 Derby County

Sky Bet League One – Reading 1-0 Derby County

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 2-1 Cheltenham Town (60’ Bird, 81’ Collins)

February Review

A victory in the final game of January was key on the back of mixed month of results and gave the Rams confidence going into February.

Things got off to a perfect start with a tough 1-0 win on the road at Charlton Athletic, thanks to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing's well-taken goal, but a late equaliser from Shrewsbury Town a week later at Pride Park left a bitter taste in the mouth in a 1-1 draw after Max Bird's goal looked to have the Rams on their way to three points.

One of the most impressive performances of the season followed. A midweek trip to an in-form Exeter City side could have quite easily proved to be a banana skin en route to the end goal, but after Bird opened the scoring on 24 minutes, a near flawless performance accompanied as the Rams came away 3-0 victors in Devon. Mendez-Laing and Tom Barkhuizen struck to seal an excellent win.

A 90th minute goal from Louie Sibley inflicted revenge on Stevenage off the back of the 3-1 defeat on the road earlier in the season and ensured the Rams opened February with 10 points from a possible 12 and elevated them to their highest position of the campaign to date; second in League One.

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing, as the final two matches of the month showed.

Back-to-back defeats would close out February, something the Rams would taste for the only time in the league in 2023/24. Despite taking the lead through Sonny Bradley’s first goal for the club on the road at promotion rivals Barnsley, the Tykes were able to turn the game around to claim all three points with a 2-1 win in Yorkshire before a Charlton side, revitalised under new biss Nathan Jones, would come to Pride Park and inflict a second defeat on the spin for the side. Derby had taken the lead through Eiran Cashin's header, but they went down 2-1 in the end.

Whilst defeats in the second half of the campaign are always feel more amplified, the strong form at the beginning of the month enabled the Rams to close out February in a position they craved; the automatic promotion places.

February Results

Sky Bet League One – Charlton Athletic 0-1 Derby County (31’ Mendez-Laing)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 1-1 Shrewsbury Town (54’ Bird)

Sky Bet League One – Exeter City 0-3 Derby County (24’ Bird, 52’ Mendez-Laing, 62’ Barkhuizen)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 1-0 Stevenage (90’ Sibley)

Sky Bet League One – Barnsley 2-1 Derby County (18’ Bradley)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 1-2 Charlton Athletic (39’ Cashin)