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View from the South Stand - Derby County Play-offs

For the second season in a row, Brighton and Hove Albion are into the SkyBet Championship play-offs. This time around, it is Derby County standing in our way in the semi final, the first leg of which is at The Amex on Thursday 9th May.

Knowing that this seasons games can't be any worse than last years, we sat down with Nathan Morley from the Derby County Fan Blog to get the view from Pride Park or whatever name the home of the Rams is masquerading under currently.

How would you rank this season from a Derby County perspective?

It's been a magnificent season. The club's aim was to reach the play-offs and more has been achieved than I certainly expected, I predicted we'd finish 6th before the season began. After a few years of mediocrity, occasional flirts with the play-offs and some abysmal weeks, finally there is something to shout about again. It really was time the club pushed again, Nigel Clough assembled a good mix of a squad with little amounts of cash but it required someone else to make a final push to the next level and to make a couple of tweaks with the squad. Clough deserves credit for where Derby are today.

What was the reaction when Schteve McClaren got the job and how well would you say he has done?
Well, our rivals Forest were all laughing and certain things would go belly-up, meanwhile I think most Rams fans, including myself, took a measured "let's wait and see" approach. McClaren wouldn't exactly have topped a list of fans' favourites for the job. I think he has done very well on the pitch but also off it in terms of his coaching work. The ex-England boss is well known for his coaching abilities, testament to the improvement in many players' games since his arrival and the Premier League big boys trust in him to lend us their future stars. Also, he has brought in a very experienced and knowledgeable team behind him in Paul Simpson and Eric Steele. On the pitch, there has been a clear added tactical nous. With Clough, it was always difficult to see a plan B, now, the Mac seems to have things spot on.

Was automatic promotion ever really on the cards?
Not really, no. Derby haven't quite been consistent enough for that. However, there was one occasion when things looked very promising. In early March, the Rams were just two points behind Burnley and the next game was a trip to Turf Moor. I was beginning to dream, unfortunately it wasn't to be and a very dubious red card cost us that day.

Who have been the key men for you this season?
Firstly, there is Chris Martin. The free transfer has bagged 23 goals this season and he is integral to the way the Rams play, without him the team has struggled; you only have to look at the dire 1-1 draw, when Martin was rested, at the weekend. He's a horrible player to play against, an absolute bully, he'll back into you and be an all-round nuisance, however he does go down very often; perhaps too often! Craig Bryson, the box-to-midfielder, has a great return of 16 goals this season. The man oozes energy and never stops running for his team. Also in midfield, watch out for the on loan George Thorne, who sits in the holding position and plays some tremendous passes, he, too, is vital to how the team operates.

How do you see our semi final going?
I think we'll win, I'm pretty confident. The recent form has been good and I was hoping to face Brighton out of the two chasing the 6th spot down to the wire. It'll be a tight affair at the Amex, I believe the Rams will nick a win and come home and seal it.

Who do you think will ultimately end up promoted?
Again, I'm quite confident. The other semi-final looks like it'll be a cracker for the neutral; I reckon Wigan will come out on top in that one and then and a Rams win, though, looking at both Wigan and QPR's squads, I am fearful; they have good big game and ground experience, which could come through for them. Nonetheless, I'm happy with the Derby team and I really think this is our year.

Many thanks to Nathan for taking the time to discuss the play offs with us. He seems pretty confident of a Derby win, so if it is Oscar's men heading to Wembley you can always remind him of that by sending him a Tweet

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