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“I also have to consider…” – Warne makes Derby playoffs admission if Bolton win on Saturday

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Derby County boss Paul Warne has admitted that the playoffs still aren’t out of his mind as his side gears up to take on Carlisle United on Saturday.

Heading into the final day of the League One season, Derby County sit in the second automatic promotion spot, having turned their season around impressively.

After a tough start, Warne’s side have strung together an impressive run of results, leaving them on the cusp of promotion to the Championship. A draw against bottom-of-the-table and already relegated Carlisle would be enough to see them head up, while they could still be promoted with a loss should Bolton fail to win or win and swing the goal difference by less than 4.

Speaking on the season as a whole, Warne admitted it had been a tough one. “The start of the season didn’t go as well as we would have liked,” he told BBC Radio Derby. “We didn’t get the start we wanted, and a few of our signings didn’t hit the ground running as well as we would have thought. The performance at Stevenage was typical League One. You can’t just have control of the ball and nothing else. You have to roll your sleeves up and win your battles.

“Football isn’t a complicated game, but it is confidence-based. You can bounce back and win games. We got injured players back, we got form, you get confidence and you get it rolling.”

Now, he has also revealed he is taking absolutely nothing for granted ahead of the weekend.

This comes as Warne admitted that veteran striker Dwight Gayle might not make it after missing the last six games with a hamstring injury, just in case he could be needed for any playoff action.

Gayle was signed as a free agent in February and has scored three goals in six games to help the Rams push for promotion, as well as grabbing an assist. However, Warne has urged caution with the 34-year-old’s return, revealing that he doesn’t want to rush him back and then be without him for any potential playoffs next month.

Warne, like all of the Derby fans, will be hoping that it doesn’t come to playoffs, but they’ve seen enough heartbreak in recent years to perhaps be quietly pleased with the fact the boss is preparing himself for all eventualities.

Derby County are on the cusp of earning themselves a Championship play-off place this season, and much of that success has been down to a rock-solid defence throughout the campaign.

Only top two Leeds United and Leicester City have conceded fewer goals than the Rams this season, with Paul Warne’s well-drilled side managing to keep the opposition at bay with relative ease week after week.

With 44 goals conceded, plenty of plaudits have to go to the Derby backline, with defenders like Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Curtis Nelson, Eiran Cashin, and James Collins proving instrumental in their promotion push.

Playing alongside Kyle Bartley or Semi Ajayi, the Rams’ backline has often been insurmountable, with their prowess in the air backed up by a sensational ability to read the game and sniff out any danger before it becomes a threat.

Cedric Kipre has been a fundamental piece of the puzzle, with no Derby player performing more tackles in the defensive third this season. His 65 blocks are also a club-leading statistic.

Despite their strong defensive performances, Derby still need four points from their last two matches to secure their place in the end-of-season playoffs.

Warne’s cautious approach regarding the return of striker Dwight Gayle highlights the stakes involved. Gayle, who has been out of action with a hamstring problem since the victory over Bolton back in March, is eager to return. However, Warne is wary of rushing him back too soon and risking further injury, especially with the playoffs looming.

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