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 final three months of 2023; October, November and December.

October Review

October brought with it the busiest month of the season to date for the Rams. With seven fixtures to play; six in Sky Bet League One and one in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, there was no denying it was going to be a slog.

Things started off perfectly though with a midweek trip to a not-so sunny Blackpool. The Tangerines had already showed why they were a fancied team for promotion in the season when they put in a convincing display at Pride Park to knock Derby out of the Carabao Cup back in August, so Paul Warne’s side were well aware of their threats but were keen to put on a performance.

A magnificent second half display saw the Rams pick up all three points, including a first-ever goal for the club for Korey Smith, as they defeated their opponents 3-1 to claim a massive three points on the road.

A 1-1 draw on the road at Cheltenham Town followed, with Curtis Nelson scoring his first Rams goal to equalise, before a 2-1 win on the road at Notts County made it two wins out of two in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy group stage and took the Rams’ unbeaten run to seven in all competitions, courtesy of a double from Louie Sibley.

Shrewsbury Town were able to bring that unbeaten run to an end as they claimed a 1-0 win at the Croud Meadow, but Warne’s men responded immediately a few days later as they dispatched Exeter City 2-0 at Pride Park, with Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Conor Washington on target.

The Rams shipped three goals for the first and only time in the league 2023/24 a few days later as they went down 3-1 at Stevenage but, as they did following the Shrewsbury defeat, they responded immediately on home turf. An inspired performance from Max Bird helped them on their way to a thumping 4-0 win over Northampton Town at Pride Park, rounding off what was a hectic month. Bird got two goals on the night, with Washington and Mendez-Laing also finding the net.

October Results

Sky Bet League One - Blackpool 1-3 Derby County (54’ Smith, 71’ Collins, 89’ Waghorn)

Sky Bet League One – Cheltenham Town 1-1 Derby County (45’ Nelson)

Bristol Street Motors Trophy Group Stage – Notts County 1-2 Derby County (20’ Sibley, 57’ Sibley)

Sky Bet League One – Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Derby County

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 2-0 Exeter City (30’ Mendez-Laing, 79’ Washington)

Sky Bet League One – Stevenage 3-1 Derby County (38’ Mendez-Laing)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 4-0 Northampton Town (14’ Bird, 32’ Bird, 22’ Washington, 49’ Mendez-Laing)

November Review

Despite an international break sandwiched in between, November would still be heavy on the fixtures with six to fit in on either side.

The first match of the month saw a trip to Sky Bet League Two promotion-chasers Crewe Alexandra in the First Round of the Emirates FA Cup. Goals either side of the break from the hosts looked to be enough to see the Rams beaten before a late goal from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and a strike deep into stoppage time from captain Conor Hourihane forced a replay at Pride Park.

Derby made it three wins from three in the Bristol Street Motors Trophy and topped their group thanks to a 4-1 home victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-21s, which included a fine hat-trick from James Collins plus a first ever senior goal for young forward Tony Weston.

The first league fixture of the month brought with it another statement win as the Rams dispatched promotion rivals Barnsley 3-0 at Pride Park. James Collins netted twice, while defender Craig Forsyth also chipped in with a goal.

The FA Cup replay against Crewe brought a shock 3-1 defeat and marked the second and only time of the entire season that the side would ship three goals, but they didn’t allow it to derail their league campaign as they saw off Bristol Rovers 2-1 at Pride Park soon afterwards. An own goal put Derby in front and although Rovers levelled up late on, Mendez-Laing struck in the final moments to secure all three points.

And a first goal in Derby colours for Tyreece John-Jules rounded off the month as Warne's side picked up a hard-fought 1-0 win on the road at Port Vale to make it nine points from nine in league action across November.

November Results

Emirates FA Cup First Round – Crewe Alexandra 2-2 Derby County (89’ Mendez-Laing, 90’ Hourihane)

Bristol Street Motors Trophy Group Stage – Derby County 4-1 Wolves Under-21s (43’ Collins, 55’ Collins, 62’ Collins, 79’ Weston)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 3-0 Barnsley (35’ Collins, 63’ Collins, 48’ Forsyth)

Emirates FA Cup First Round Replay – Derby County 1-3 Crewe Alexandra (3’ Barkhuizen)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 2-1 Bristol Rovers (66’ Hunt OG, 90’ Mendez-Laing)

Sky Bet League One – Port Vale 0-1 Derby County (77’ John-Jules)

December Review

Christmas month, always a favourite among supporters, and it proved to be near perfect for the Rams.

December would begin with the first knockout game of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy campaign and Derby made light work of it, dispatching their League One rivals Fleetwood Town 3-0 on home soil.

Five league fixtures would follow, including three away from home. A 3-0 victory on the road at Leyton Orient kicked things off in fashionable style and made it five league victories on the spin for Warne’s side. Louie Sibley, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Tom Barkhuizen were the trio on target.

An 83rd minute strike from Barkhuizen looked to have put the Rams on their way to a sixth in a row the following week at home to Wycombe Wanderers, but they were denied in heartbreaking fashion by a 98th minute penalty in what proved to be the final kick of the game in a 1-1 draw.

Not to be deflated by that late goal, Derby got back on the horse and closed out the month with another three wins on the spin. A 3-1 home victory over Lincoln City, secured thanks to goals from Conor Hourihane, Kane Wilson and James Collins, was followed up by a hard-fought 1-0 win on Boxing Day at Wigan Athletic, thanks to Curtis Nelson's header, but they saved their best and most dramatic for the final fixture of 2023.

Promotion rivals Oxford United were the test to close out the year and after falling behind 2-0 to two early Cameron Brannagan strikes, 2023 looked to be ending in disappointment.

However, Craig Forsyth netted with the final kick of the first half to give the Rams a renewed hope going into the second period. Buoyed by halving the deficit, the Rams came out of the blocks and penned their hosts in for 45 minutes. Chance after chance came and went but the side kept plugging way and got their just deserts when substitute Liam Thompson leapt above everyone to head home an equaliser with 10 minutes to go. And the remarkable turnaround was complete in the 86th minute when Eiran Cashin got on the end of a Hourihane delivery to steer beyond the keeper and ensure the side saw out 2023 with one of their most important victories of the season.

December Results

Bristol Street Motors Trophy Round of 32 – Derby County 3-0 Fleetwood Town (25’ Collins, 77’ Collins, 88’ John-Jules)

Sky Bet League One – Leyton Orient 0-3 Derby County (34’ Sibley, 47’ Mendez-Laing, 79’ Barkhuizen)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 1-1 Wycombe Wanderers (83’ Barkhuizen)

Sky Bet League One – Derby County 3-1 Lincoln City (26’ Hourihane, 65’ Wilson, 77’ Collins)

Sky Bet League One – Wigan Athletic 0-1 Derby County (19’ Nelson)

Sky Bet League One – Oxford United 2-3 Derby County (45’ Forsyth, 81’ Thompson, 86’ Cashin)