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Championship: Rooney's Rams have survival spirit

Derby's impressive survival spirit was again on show on Sunday as the Rams stormed back with two very late goals to secure a 2-2 home draw with Birmingham.

Following a 21-point deduction earlier in the campaign and ongoing fears over the club's future, it looked like relegation would be a foregone conclusion for Derby but, under Wayne Rooney, they have fought admirably on the pitch to give themselves a chance of pulling off an amazing escape.

Late show against Blues

A damaging defeat loomed large at Pride Park on Sunday when the Blues raced into a 2-0 lead by early in the second half thanks to goals from debutant Lyle Taylor and forward Scott Hogan. However, Luke Plange halved the deficit with three minutes left before the dramatic - and controversial - equaliser came six minutes into injury time.

Substitute Krystian Bielik, who was making his return to action after a year out with a knee injury, powered home a superb overhead kick that was allowed to stand despite Richard Stearman looking to be offside with his headed assist while Blues also complained it was dangerous play as Bielik's boot was very close to defender Teden Mengi's head when it connected with the ball.

To the delight of the packed home stadium, the goal stood, though, and the result means Derby are only seven points from safety after picking up eight points from their last five games. It will still take a huge effort from the East Midlands outfit to collect enough points in the 18 games that remain to preserve their Championship status, but Rooney's men are displaying the sort of never-say-die attitude that suggests they might just be able to pull it off.

Peterborough clash on the horizon

The Rams will obviously have to hope teams above them in the table falter over the course of the next few months while they continue to try and defy expectations themselves. There's a particularly big home game coming up on 19th February when they host Peterborough at Pride Park - the team who are currently just a place and five points better off in the table - and Rooney will want his side to go into that clash still in touch with their fellow strugglers.

Above Posh are Reading and Cardiff, who will both still be fearing a relegation scrap in the remainder of the season, but Derby may now view the 17-point gap that's opened up between themselves and Hull City and Swansea City, who are 18th and 19th respectively, as too big to bridge.

Cardiff get much-needed win

Talking of Cardiff, they pulled off an against-the-odds victory over Nottingham Forest in the other game on Sunday, winning 2-1 at home for just their third league win of the season. Steve Morison's men are now six points clear of the bottom three and fully deserved the three points. Jordan Hugill's debut goal and substitute Isaak Davies' close-range finish after Joe Ralls had hit the post from distance did the damage while Keinan Davies' late header for the visitors proved to be just a consolation. 

Forest, who are 8/1 to be promoted, looked out of sorts and missed the chance to move into the play-off places for the first time this season as their three-game winning run came to an untimely end.

Four more games coming up

The relentless nature of the Championship means it's no surprise to see four more games scheduled across Tuesday and Wednesday. Before both Derby and Cardiff return to action in midweek against Huddersfield and Barnsley, Millwall host Preston and Swansea entertain Luton on Tuesday.

It's around this time of year when the promotion and relegation picture in the second tier usually begins to become a bit clearer and, focusing on the race to make the play-offs, there's a nine-point spread between Middlesbrough, who currently occupy the final play-off place in sixth, and Millwall (12/1 to finish in top six) down in 15th.

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Millwall and Luton not out of play-off race

With so many points still to play for there remains scope for teams to string together some positive results to muscle in on the play-off picture and the Lions will feel they still have an outside chance of making it after a much-needed 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion last time out.

Millwall ended a three-game losing streak with that success over the Baggies and if they follow it up by beating Preston, who are only a point and two places ahead of them, then the top six begins to come into view. Millwall are 13/10 to beat Preston, who are 9/4, with the draw 11/5.

Likewise, Luton (7/1 to finish in top six) will believe they have a good chance of making the play-offs as the Hatters are 10th, six points off Boro with a game in hand. They held second-place Blackburn to a goalless draw at the weekend and will likely be confident of seeing off the Swans, who are down in 18th and lost 2-0 at Hull in their most recent outing. Luton are currently 2/1 for victory, Swansea are 11/8 and the draw is 23/10.

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