Derby County vs. Forest preview..

In case you hadn’t realised, we’ve a football match on Saturday.  Whilst it may not get much national recognition, games between these two sides are generally passionate affairs – and I’m really looking forward to it.  Pride Park of course hasn’t been a remotely happy hunting ground for the Reds, never registering a win since the Rams moved house to an industrial estate.  Form would suggest that this could be an excellent chance to remedy this.

The cliche to dig out for any ‘derby’ game is that the form book counts for nothing.  The Reds go in to this with the opportunity of extending their unbeaten league run to twenty games – the Rams prepared midweek by travelling to Plymouth and losing.  They’ve won one league game in six, and lost the last three league games at Pride Park.  They have, however had a couple of decent cup results at home – a win against Millwall (on penalties) in their replay, and beating Doncaster 1-0.

Agent Clough has been on a well-publicised purge of the wage bill at Derby, and rumours abound that they will listen to offers for their players – with Hulse linked to clearly-in-need-of-a-striker Queens Park Rangers.  Given our own links with extending Shorey’s loan (although he made the Villa bench tonight) and bids for Victor Moses – we too might have unexpected players available for inclusion.  As might the Rams – who are scouring the loan market to strengthen their squad.

Tuesday night’s game saw Wes pick up an injury, aside from that we’re in good shape – with Chambers waiting in the wings should he be needed.  I would expect to see Moussi return to midfield to give us strength in the middle probably at the expense of Earnie, leaving Dex up front.  The left-back berth will depend on whether Shorey’s services are reacquired – if not then Perchy will be keen to deputise again as he did to impressive effect against QPR.

Our hosts are likely to feature everyone’s favourite pantomime villain, Robbie Savage – who seems to be the first name on Clough’s teamsheet.  It will be interesting to see if he uses the game as an opportunity to try to get something out of a certain chubby winger who used to play for us.  The reports I hear from the Derby fans I know suggest that something Derby have lacked of late is wideplay, Clough opting to pack the midfield with central midfielders.

Billy Davies will, of course, have a much keener idea about our opponents than I – and will have prepared his team and tactics accordingly.  With Newcastle picking up an expected victory over troubled Crystal Palace this evening, we could temporarily occupy top-spot with a win of 3-0 or better.  Frankly, a scrappy 1-0 would be plenty for me and the other Forest fans lucky enough to avail themselves of a ticket.

That natural level of pessimism that only a football fan can have kicks in for me though (makes a change, huh?)… given the pressures Derby are under this game represents a massive opportunity for Agent Clough reduce some of the flak coming his way.  Aside from the (I think unlikely) risk of being sucked into a relegation scrap, this really does represent probably one of the few things Derby have left to play for this season.

On a more self-indulgent note, you’ll have to wait a bit (potentially a few days) for post-match reaction as I’m hot-footing it to the wilds of Scotland straight after the game (having already incurred the wrath of family members for joining them later – who organises such shindigs during football season!?) so will have limited if any connectivity.  I might get a chance to post something at some point, or maybe not – but don’t worry (as if you would!) my absence is definitely planned!

Of course, depending on the news drifting through the open transfer window this might not be the last you hear from me before the weekend (I’m still very much in “It’s January, we don’t do January signings” mode, though!)