Let’s face it, we were all looking forward to this a lot more when we were signing players left-right and centre whilst Derby were picking up non-leaguers to boost their squad! Since then we’ve had a poor start whilst the Rams have picked up a couple of wins already. With our defensive frailties showing no real signs of abating (although there’s a chance Lynch may be available again), it becomes a daunting fixture.
Of course, after our dramatic reacquaintances last season the Rams very much have the upper hand on very recent results – and with our torturers of last season, Rob Hulse and Kris Commons, available and fit it could be another uncomfortable afternoon. The Reds need to work hard in the fullback positions to try to stem the flow of crosses from Teale and Croft, Chambers and Wes need to get the measure of Hulse and well – woe betide the player that gives Commons too much room.
That said, we started to show a degree of confidence and attacking penetration we’ve not seen yet from Forest against Middlesbrough – so at the other end of the field it will be potentially just as precarious for Derby’s defenders. Given Billy’s recent selection, Clough Jnr won’t have much idea which strike pairing we’ll start with, but will need to prepare for all eventualities as those who don’t make the first eleven will undoubtedly be on the bench.
I’m expecting Billy to start slow and cautious, aiming to frustrate before perhaps coming out of our shell later. Although I’ve struggled second-guessing the wily bugger before – so I could be totally wrong. The key battle in this game will be in midfield, Savage has flourished since Clough’s arrival at Pride Park, and it will be down to Paul McKenna to keep him in check and to ‘boss’ the midfield. I’d go as far to say that the result of the game could hinge over which of the two midfielders manages to be most influential.
Certainly it’s the game we look forward to more than any other – and dread with equal measure, with the number of inter-club connections it promises to be just as heated as ever, with Billy Davies, Lee Camp, Robert Earnshaw and Dexter Blackstock (to a lesser extent) eager to put one over their former club – and Nigel Clough and Kris Commons equally keen to stick it to the Reds. It could be an intriguing encounter, for the neutral.
I think on our day we could get the result – however I’m cautious because we’ve not had many ‘our days’ – good performances have been thwarted by bad luck and refereeing incompetence, whilst toothlessness infront of goal have blighted a number of games. If we’re firing , we could do well – although even if we’re 2-0 up let’s face it, the final whistle couldn’t come soon enough given recent history.
As ever with these games, I’m both hopeful and fearful. It will probably be a dull 0-0 draw now I’ve predicted some kind of blood-and-thunder kind of encounter. It could go either way, will the more-rested Rams be more complacent or will the sharpened Reds still have their cutting edge from Tuesday night? The only thing I can think is that we certainly owe them one after our last few encounters, come on lads, let’s pay off that debt with interest!
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