Derby County Blog: The festive period will define Rams’ season, says Andy Buckley-Taylor

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Derby head into December’s festive fixtures coming off an amazing run of form that now sees them in touch with the top two.

Wins at home and away have seen them surge up the championship league table.

What is apparent, apart from the new ‘air of optimism’ within the club, is that with players returning from injury there is growing competition for team places.

Centre half has plenty of cover. Jake Buxton and Richard Keogh have really stepped it up in the last dozen games, but they have Mark O’Brien and Zak Whitbread both nearing fitness plus Michael Keane snapping at their heels for a start.

I always like to see plenty of striking options on the bench and while Ward, Martin and Dawkins start, Russell, Sammon and Bennett are on standby to be called into action.

Chris Martin has so far scored 13 goals and is well on the way to me winning a charity bet I had with a Forest fan that a Derby player will score 20 goals this season.

Jamie Ward has been in goalscoring form since the arrival of Steve McClaren. He’s bagged himself six! Simon Dawkins has a couple and always looks a threat going forward.

Despite not having the same amount of playing time, Russell has five like Sammon, who has come off the bench to score a couple of important winners.

In reality McClaren himself has brought in Wisdom, Dawkins and Keane, yet the team has a much stronger look to it.

Andre Wisdom has been a revelation at right back. Should our dream of a Premier League return materialise, I’m sure a cheeky bid for the talented England Under-21 captain will be on the minds of the management team.

However, there is some serious business ahead with a busy December and New Year programme loom. A good run in these games could help define our season.