IN a glittering playing career that brought 106 England caps and a host of trophies when sporting the royal blue of Chelsea, Frank Lampard was renowned for timing his late runs to perfection.
There was no more chilling sight for an opposition goalkeeper than the Romford-born midfielder darting into the penalty area at the very moment the ball also arrived via a team-mate.
Moments later, said goalkeeper would invariably be picking the ball out of the net as Lampard peeled away to celebrate one of 271 goals plundered in a club career that brought Champions League glory and three Premier League titles.
The 40-year-old may have hung his boots up four years ago. But, judging by how Derby County finished the Championship season, Lampard’s knack of timing those late runs remains very much intact.
With just six games remaining, his Rams side were trailing both Middlesbrough and Bristol City, the latter by five points, in the race to finish sixth.
Four victories and a couple of draws later, however, and it is Derby preparing to host Leeds United as Boro and the Robins are left to reflect.
I cannot understand how you see us as underdogs when we are third in the table and beat them twice.Pontus Jansson
A sell-out Pride Park crowd will be hoping Lampard’s happy habit of being in the right place at the right time will continue this tea-time.
Pontus Jansson, however, is adamant any perceived momentum in favour of the Rams is well wide of the mark.
“I cannot understand how you see us as underdogs when we are third in the table and beat them twice,” said the Swede. “Going into the play-offs as the third team, you should be favourites.
“We know that we are good. It has been a tough month for us but that gives us more motivation in the play-offs. So, you can see us as underdogs if you want. But no, not in our world.”