AS Huddersfield Town prepare to host the Championship’s form team, Derby County, their manager Mark Robins has detected a growing maturity among his players.
The Terriers sit 13th, a similar position to the one the club occupied at Christmas last year.
Back then, however, Town went into the festive season without a win in seven games and performances started to dip so alarmingly that manager Simon Grayson was on his way not long into the new year.
Robins succeeded Grayson in February and made it a priority to change the mindset at the John Smith’s Stadium.
After a professional display brought a point from a goalless draw with Brighton & Hove Albion in Town’s last outing, Robins admits to being pleased with the progress his charges are making.
He said: “Our performance last Saturday was different from our previous five games. We are learning more and more about that side of the game and we have had to, pretty quickly, because we have played some tough teams of late.
“We are moving in the right direction. The lads went about their jobs brilliantly in really tough conditions (at Brighton). We did as well as we could have hoped to have done without scoring a goal.”
Town had lost their two games before the long trip to the seaside, but they are still handily placed in mid-table, a position they have occupied for most of the season.
The improvement Robins has spoken about, however, will be tested to the limit today when Derby make the trip to West Yorkshire.
Under Steve McClaren, the Rams have – along with Burnley – emerged as the surprise package of the Championship.
A run of seven straight wins has powered County up to fourth in the table and another three points today would represent the best run of any team in the second tier this term, eclipsing the seven consecutive triumphs of leaders Burnley in the early weeks.
Joel Lynch is available again today after serving a one-game ban following his red card in Town’s 1-0 home defeat by Reading on December 14.
Jonathan Hogg and captain Peter Clarke are still out, however, with hip and knee injuries respectively for a game that should see Alex Smithies make his 200th start for Town.
Last six games: Huddersfield WWWLLD, Derby WWWWWW.
Last time: Huddersfield Town 1 Derby County 0; September 15, 2012; Championship.
Referee: C Boyeson (East Yorkshire).