Derby County may have beaten Watford 4-2 this afternoon to confirm their third-place finish in the Championship but Steve McClaren felt aspects of the Rams’ display were “sloppy” and believes his side will need to improve if they are to secure promotion to the Premier League.

Although the hosts fell behind to an early Troy Deeney, they more than deserved to be level at the interval but only had a Jeff Hendrick goal to show for their first-half efforts against a very poor Hornets performance.

Craig Forsyth fired the home side in front against his former club but after Marco Cassetti had been sent off for a second booking, the Rams were undone again as Mathias Ranegie equalised but late goals from Hendrick and Chris Martin sealed the win.

The former England boss said: “That’s the second game in a row we’ve been sloppy – poor defending, sloppy, giving the ball away and it nearly cost us again. And if we do that in the play-offs there’s no chance we’ll go through, no chance.

“Credit to the players, they keep getting themselves out of a hole, coming back and getting the results but in terms of the way forward we’re certainly need to tighten up in a few areas at both ends because we scored four but we were not ruthless enough in that. It’s ruthlessness at both ends we need, we’re doing everything ok kind off in between.”

Derby finish their regular season at Leeds United next weekend before entering the play-offs and while McClaren acknowledged his side’s achievement in finishing, he is now seeking greater “ruthlessness” at both ends of the pitch.

He said: “On one hand it’s well done, finished third, for the players it’s a terrific achievement and kind of half the job done, a third of the job done, now we have to prepare for the play-offs.

“When you look at other squads, the Wigans, the Readings, the QPRs, the people who have got bigger budgets than us, but at the end of the day that’s the Championship. It’s very inconsistent, you’ve seen some results today you thought you’d never see and that’s the problem.

“What we’ve tried to do is provide consistency, not just in results but in performances and that’s what we need to get a back too; a consistency of performance, making it difficult for opponents and not thinking we can just go out and out-score them.”