QPR boss Mark Warburton is hoping his team can use their current good form to catapult them to another positive result at Derby County on Monday evening.
Currently some 16 points adrift at the foot of the Sky Bet Championship table – owing to a combined 21-point deduction for financial matters – Wayne Rooney’s Rams have responded in defiant fashion by collecting four points from their last two fixtures against current league pacesetters Fulham and Bournemouth.
Warburton believes a sense of injustice at Pride Park makes Derby our most difficult opponents yet – telling www.qpr.co.uk: “It was an important win for us [against Huddersfield in midweek], we had to meet the challenge against a good team.
“They were very organised and dangerous, it was a nip-and-tuck in the first half but we were much more dominant in the second half and deserved the win.
“Now, we face a very different challenge. This is our toughest game of the season so far.
“The points deduction has happened and it’s out of their (Derby’s) control – but they can play with real freedom and express themselves now.
“Not many teams will get four points out of Bournemouth and Fulham. They’ll have a target in mind and you have to respect that, otherwise you’ll get hurt.
“The players and staff will feel a sense of injustice and will come out firing. They have a passionate crowd who will feel that injustice as well.
“Twenty-one points is some deduction but they have a fantastic setup and something to aim for. You should never under estimate a group of players and staff when they have something to play for.”
Our midweek win over Huddersfield Town moved in-form Rangers up to fourth in the Championship table as we draw ever closer to the midway point in the season.
However, Warburton insists he and his players refuse to get carried away by the prospect of a top-six finish come May.
“It beats being 19th this time last year!” he added. “But the moment you look too far ahead is when you lose concentration.
“It’s all about mindset. The players have shown in 2021 their ability to go and get results both home and away.
“We’re just taking one game at a time. We want to keep pushing and put some daylight between us and other teams.
“We’re showing more resilience and right now, we’re in a good place. But the league is so tight and we have to focus on what is going to be a really stern test at Pride Park.”
Rangers are among the division’s top scorers but had previously taken criticism from a defensive perspective.
Such concerns appear to have been allayed in recent weeks, though – and after seeing his team collect three clean sheets from their last four league outings, Warburton said: “The defence have taken criticism but they have worked so hard.
“We defend from the front – you see the likes of Chrissy Willock and Charlie Austin putting in the first challenges.
“Likewise, we have defenders who can take the ball forward - it’s a team effort.
“If you can get the mentality to protect your goal right, you’ll be in a good place. We’ve got to make sure we’re considered a really tough team to break down.”
After turning in a mightily-impressive performance, Stefan Johansen was forced off late on in midweek after picking up a knock.
Warburton hopes to be able to call on his skipper once more on Monday, but admits there’ll be further late calls on both Stefan and a number of his team-mates.
“We hope Stefan will be okay,” he said. “There are lots of bumps and bruises around. The likes of Lyndon [Dykes], Andre [Gray] and Moses [Odubajo] have been out, and there are one or two other knocks from Wednesday night.
“But the game being on Monday gives you a few more days to recover.”
Jordy de Wijs looks set to be sidelined with a fresh injury until the New Year, however.
Warburton commented: “It’s highly unlikely Jordy will be available before Christmas – hopefully not too far after that but it’s really frustrating for all involved.”