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Derby coach Paul Simpson focused on mind games ahead of promotion run-in

First-team coach Paul Simpson has emphasised the importance of mental toughness as Derby prepare for the Sky Bet Championship promotion run-in.

The Rams have occupied a play-off spot for the majority of the season and are still fifth in the table with seven matches remaining, despite an alarming and untimely six-game winless streak.

Derby are in the hunt for automatic promotion, though, and are currently five points behind second-placed Watford, who visit the iPro Stadium on Friday evening.

Simpson believes that mental toughness - being brave and confident in certain situations - could prove to be vital.

He told Rams Player: "The mental side of the game is hugely important and we have to be ready for that as well in the last seven matches.

"The majority of the game is played in the head anyway and we have to be mentally tough.

"It's about being brave and I don't mean by smashing into tackles, but in terms of wanting the ball and wanting it in tight areas.

"That's what it is now; we know that the players have good ability and are physically fit so we just need them to deal with the situation.

"I am not going to use the word 'pressure', it's not that, but we're in a situation and we must deal with things properly.

"If we do that then we will get results again and we'll have smiles on faces once again."

Simpson added: "We've been one of the promotion favourites for the majority of the season but I think it is something that we have handled quite well.

"It's a different mentality compared to what we had last season.

"Being mentally strong is vitally important because there will be some tough scraps coming up.

"Not every game will be pretty and free-flowing football; we're going to have to battle and scrap as well for points.

"If we want to be up at the top we have to deal with the tough games and the footballing games, coming out on top in all of them."

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