The Pilgrims’ manager knows that overhauling the leaders, who are three points ahead of Argyle and have a superior goal-difference, represents a huge challenge with just three matches of the season left to play.
The first of those games is this weekend, at Colchester United – live play-off contenders whose home form this season is second only to Doncaster.
“We’ll probably have to win every game to give ourselves an opportunity of winning the title,” said Derek, “and we go to a very tough place in Colchester – they have got an excellent home record – but, because it’s mathematically possible, then we’ll try to do that.
“We have put ourselves in a very good position going into the last three games of the season. At the start of the season, if we had said that, with four games to go, we would have achieved our goal, which was to get automatically promoted, and were still in with a fighting chance of winning the title, we would have all taken that.”
Argyle have won 13 matches and lost only four on the road in the league this season. One of those victories, just three games ago, was at Doncaster, who had not previously tasted a home defeat for a calendar year.
Derek said: “We want to try to finish the season strongly and when we‘ve got an opportunity of winning the title, we have to concentrate all our efforts on that. That’s where our sole focus will be.
“We’ve set a club record of 13 away wins and we want to make even more, so that nobody can ever catch us.
“We’ve achieved our goal of getting automatic promotion and, with three games to go, we have still got an opportunity of winning the title. That’s our main focus between now and the end of the season. We will probably have to win the three games to give us any chance of winning it.
“It’s obviously in Doncaster’s hands, but we’ve got a very good away record; Colchester have got a very good home record, so it has got the makings of a good game. The players would like to try to win the title.”
The players returned to training on Thursday after two days off to celebrate driving over the finishing line with Monday’s impressive 6-1 home win over Newport County.
“We’ve had a very hard season,” said Derek. “We’ve played 52 games already because of our progression in the FA Cup and they haven’t had a lot of time off. They deserve the opportunity to celebrate after Monday. I’m sure they’ve done that.
“We have got to continue the way we played against Newport.”
“We’re going to try to get maximum points and we will put out the strongest team that I think is available at the time.”
That may or may not include central defender Sonny Bradley, who missed Monday’s victory with a dead leg sustained in the previous 1-1 draw at Portsmouth.
“We’re going to assess him just to see how he is, to see if he’s available,” said Derek. “We’ll give him every opportunity to see how his dead leg is.”