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Derby County and head coach Steve McClaren have enjoyed something of a renaissance this season after both struggling in recent years
Watford travel to face a Derby County side on Saturday who, unlike the Hornets, know their play-off place has been safely secured.
In all likelihood the Rams will finish in third place in the Championship with only Queens Park Rangers able to catch them at this stage.
A win against Beppe Sannino’s side will secure third spot for Steve McClaren’s men, guaranteeing the second leg of their play-off semi-final will be played at Pride Park.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for the Midlands outfit, who found themselves in 14th when Nigel Clough was sacked on September 28, just nine league games into the new campaign.
With hindsight the decision to sack Clough has proven to be a wise one from the Rams’ hierarchy, with former England manager McClaren overseeing an impressive upturn in form which should take the club to their highest finish since they were promoted through the play-offs in 2007.
Derby’s home form has played a large part in that turnaround, with the Rams boasting the Championship’s best form on their own patch since McClaren’s appointment and the fourth-best in the division this term.
They are also the second-highest scorers in the league, nestled between the Hornets in third and Leicester City in first.
Following McClaren’s appointment on September 30, the Rams have only lost back-to-back league games twice, with the former Middlesbrough, FC Twente, Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest boss overseeing an impressive 21 wins from his 36 matches in charge.
The goals of former Norwich City frontman Chris Martin have played a big part in the Rams’ progress this term.
Signed from the Canaries following his release last summer, the 25-year-old has enjoyed easily his best season to date, scoring 22 goals in 44 starts in all competitions.
The barrel-chested forward had finished the 2012/13 campaign on loan at Pride Park, with Clough wasting little time in securing the former England Under-19 forward’s services on a permanent basis last summer.
Martin had previously spent seven years at hometown club Norwich, scoring 25 league goals in 76 starts for the Canaries, with his most prolific season coming in 2009/10 when he netted 17 times as City were promoted from League One back into the second-tier under Paul Lambert.
The goals of Scottish midfielder Craig Bryson have been equally important, with the former Kilmarnock man chipping in with 16 from the centre of midfield, including hat-tricks against Millwall and rivals Nottingham Forest.
Derby’s recent record against the Hornets is enviable, losing just three of their last 11 meetings.
It’s been eight years since the last draw - 2-2 at Vicarage Road in March 2006.
Watford’s record at Pride Park is even worse, with just two wins since the stadium was opened in 1997, a run inclusive of ten meetings.
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