Town Visit Derby Looking to Profit From Game in Hand
Monday, 27th Nov 2017 19:31
Town face Derby County at Pride Park in their game in hand on most other Championship clubs, knowing that they could end Tuesday evening as few as three points from the play-off places or as many as eight.
The match was originally set to be played in September but was rearranged as the Rams were forced to reschedule a Carabao Cup tie against Barnsley.
The Blues go into the match in 10th position, six points behind the Rams, who currently occupy the final play-off place. A win would keep them firmly in the play-off hunt, but a defeat would see their position look very much more mid-table.
While Town’s form has been less impressive recently than it was earlier in the season, they have won only two of their last nine, Derby have been victorious in six of their last eight and have lost only once in their last 11.
Since the international break they have drawn 1-1 at Fulham before winning 2-0 at home to QPR and then 3-0 at Middlesbrough on Saturday.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy says the Rams' form has been more stable this season and isn’t ruling out this being the campaign in which they return to the Premier League after several years of throwing significant sums at winning promotion.
“It could be, they seem more settled, more consistent in the way they're playing,” he said “Although they won 3-0 at Middlesbrough on Saturday, I watched that game and they had to defend for the first 20 minutes.
“Middlesbrough were good and they scored against the run of play, which was a really good goal by Matej Vydra and then the Middlesbrough defenders and then the keeper made two mistakes and he got his hat-trick.
“So it looks like a real thrashing, but it wasn’t in those terms. But nevertheless, winning 3-0 at Middlesbrough shows they’re a good side.
“What they’re not doing is winning 5-0 and then getting beaten 2-0 and losing two on the bounce. They seem to be more consistent and more solid under Gary Rowett.
“They’re a bit more pragmatic, I would say. A bit like Villa. I don’t think Villa are an outlandishly flash team but they keep getting results. The last two games, Sunderland and us, I thought we were equally as good but we’ve come away with nothing.”
Regarding Rowett, he added: “I think he’s made a real difference and if he’s just allowed to get on with it and do it his way then they’ll be a real threat for those promotion places.”
Town have a good record at Pride Park, having won six and drawn three of their last nine visits, including last year’s 1-0 victory.
“I’d prefer it if it hadn’t been mentioned!” McCarthy said when quizzed on whether that record might have any impact on Tuesday.
“I don’t know. I always take the view if you’ve got a happy hunting ground it might happen again, but I’ve also got the other view that they’ll be thinking that they’re going to stop it. Two sides to every story, isn’t there?
Another record has received rather more publicity, Derby striker David Nugent’s remarkable feat of scoring 15 in 15 games against the Blues for his previous clubs.
The one-time England international, who joined Derby in January but missed their visit to Portman Road later in the month with a knee injury, has also amassed 10 goals in his eight games at Portman Road for Preston, Portsmouth, Leicester, Middlesbrough and the England U21s in a game against Moldova in 2006.
“We’ve no chance, we might as well stay here and send the points up there then, eh! I forgot he was there, I hope he doesn’t play!,” McCarthy joked.
“All that’s tongue-in-cheek by the way, because equally the other view on it, my side of the coin, is that it’s about time he didn’t score against us and it’s about time we won one when he’s playing against us.”
Rowett, who took charge at Pride Park in March having unexpectedly been relieved of his duties at Birmingham City last December the day after a 2-1 victory over the Blues at St Andrew’s, has said Saturday’s hat-trick hero Vydra is capable of being the best number 10 in the Championship.
McCarthy says you have to make preparations to deal with form players such as the 25-year-old Czech international, who has scored 12 goals this season, seven in his last six games.
“You’ve got to take care of them,” he said. “It really is bonkers if you think you can just turn up and play the way you play unless you’re the best, unless you’re Manchester City and all the others are worrying about playing against them, they’re trying to deal with them. Or Man United or Chelsea in their pomp, or Tottenham.
“But I doubt Tottenham played Real Madrid and didn’t give a single, solitary thought about the opposition, I’m sure they did. And we have to every week, if you’ve got players who are playing as well as that.
“I did on Saturday. I got Dominic Iorfa on against Albert Adomah. I thought he’s never going to lick him for pace, that’s for sure because he can cope with that. But it happened in other ways. So yes, we’ll be trying to take care of Vydra.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will continue in goal for the Blues with Jordan Spence likely to return at right-back.
Jonas Knudsen will be at left-back and skipper Luke Chambers and Adam Webster the centre-halves.
McCarthy seems likely to continue with his 4-3-2-1 system which would see Cole Skuse again in one of the midfield roles.
Callum Connolly could continue alongside the Bristolian, however, McCarthy may hand Emyr Huws his first start of the season, the Wales international having made two appearances off the bench.
Joe Garner will again be the lone out-and-out striker with Martyn Waghorn likely to remain in the role behind him.
Bersant Celina looks set to return in one of the wider positions with Grant Ward or Freddie Sears in the other. Teddy Bishop will probably play a part from the bench at some stage.
For Derby, striker Sam Winnall (ankle) and former Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson (hamstring) are both expected to miss out.
Derby manager Rowett is weighing up whether to make changes to his team for a game which is both sides’ fourth in 11 days.
“Leading into every game over the last five or six weeks I have yo-yoed between making certain changes and playing certain players,” Rowett said at his pre-match press conference.
“With Chris [Martin], George [Thorne] and Johnny [Russell] I am thinking all the time about how I can get them into the team because they are good players, but at the same time it is hard to disrupt something when it is going well.
“One thing you know as a manager is that, at some point, you are going to have to change it. That’s a decision I am always faced with every week.
“Anyone who thinks I just turn up and pick the same team because I don’t want to change it is wrong.
“Every game we are looking at the options and how we can improve things, but the reality is we have won another game of football against a good side and it’s difficult to make those changes.”
Historically, Town have had the better of Derby, winning 35 games (33 in the league), drawing 21 (19) and losing 27 (26). The away team has won the last five matches between the teams, three at Portman Road, two at Pride Park.
The Blues have won their last two matches at Pride Park 1-0 and are unbeaten on Derby territory since November 2006 when a 10-man side managed by Jim Magilton - loanee Simon Walton was sent off - were defeated 2-1 by a final minute Arturo Lupoli goal.
At Portman Road in January, first-half goals from Craig Bryson, Tom Ince and former Blue Darren Bent saw the Nugent-less Rams to a comfortable 3-0 victory over Town.
Bryson and Ince netted on nine and 12 to set the Rams on their way and Bent added the third just before the break and the Blues never looked like getting back into the game.
At Pride Park in September last year, Luke Varney netted against his old club eight minutes after coming on as a half-time sub to see the Blues to a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
The striker hit a 25-yard shot - the Blues' first on target - which Rams keeper Scott Carson could only help on its way into his net.
Derby striker Tom Lawrence moved to Pride Park in the summer from Leicester for an initial £5 million with the fee potentially rising to £7 million.
The Wales international enjoyed a hugely successful loan spell with the Blues last season, scoring 11 goals in 34 starts and two sub appearances.
Former Town striker Darren Bent joined the Rams in the summer of 2015 following a loan spell in the second half of the previous season.
The 33-year-old came through the academy ranks at Playford Road and went on to make 116 starts and 25 sub appearances for the first team, scoring 55 goals, between 2001 and 2005 before moving on to then-Premier League Charlton.
In addition to Bent, Rams centre-half and skipper Richard Keogh was an academy schoolboy and Portman Road ballboy during his formative years, while striker Chris Martin, a former Norwich City player, is from Suffolk having been born in Beccles.
Town keeper-coach Malcolm Webster held a similar position at Derby under George Burley's spell in charge of the Rams.
Tuesday’s referee is Scott Duncan, who has shown 50 yellow cards and four red in 19 games so far this season.
Duncan’s most recent Town match was the 1-1 home draw with Brentford in March in which he kept his cards in his pocket throughout.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 3-0 away win at Charlton in November 2015 in which he booked two Addicks and no Blues.
The Northumberland-based official, who shares a name with a former Town manager, also took control of the Blues in the 4-1 after-extra-time win at Doncaster in the Capital One Cup in August of the same year in which he booked Myles Kenlock and two home players.
Before that Duncan was the man in the middle of the 1-1 home draw with Brentford the previous season and the November 2013 1-0 victory over Charlton at The Valley.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Spence, Iorfa, Knudsen, Kenlock, Chambers, Webster, Skuse, Connolly, Bru, Huws, Nydam, Downes, Bishop, Ward, Celina, Garner, Sears, Waghorn.
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