On Sunday the highly anticipated East Midlands derby will take centre stage. Just 2 points separate the two sides in the league table, where The Rams lie in 17th place while The Reds are in 10th place.
Last five matches (league): Forest – lost, drew, drew, won, drew. Derby- lost, won, lost, won, drew.
Derby are likely to have defender Mark O’Brien and 16 year old Mason Bennett sidelined for the fixture, O’Brien is in full training but the fixture will come too soon for him and Bennett has a slight knock. Defender Shaun Barker remains out. Former Reds Nathan Tyson and Kieron Freeman are available for selection, both are likely to be on the bench.
Here’s how I think Nigel Clough will select his team: (4-4-2) Fielding; Brayford, Buxton, Keogh, Roberts; Coutts, Bryson, Hendrick, Hughes; Ward, Sammon. Subs: Legzdins, O’Connor, Freeman, Jacobs, Doyle, Robinson, Tyson.
Some have suggested that Hughes, being young, may find the game too big but remember Hendrick last year?! and Nigel Clough has backed Hughes by saying “We’ve no qualms about putting Will in against Forest. He will put his foot on the ball and he will keep a calm head. There’s no problems with him going out there.”
On-loan defender Sam Hutchinson is a doubt for Nottingham Forest, while summer signing Adlene Guedioura will miss the game through suspension. Earlier this week Forest signed Tottenham midfielder Jermaine Jenas on loan, he’s expected to make his second Forest debut.
I have to say, I’m very impressed with Nottingham Forest’s summer signings. Henri Lansbury, Billy Sharp, Greg Halford and Danny Collins to name a few. The new owners’ investment has boosted spirits at the City Ground after a dismal 2011/12 campaign. Many of their signings have good experience of success at this level.
While The Rams’ board have invested in the squad at Pride Park, I don’t feel they’ve been given enough credit for the work in bringing players in. The board have been heavily criticised by supporters for not investing in the squad, this summer £1.2 million was spent on Sammon, £1 million + on Keogh, £300k on Coutts (a bargain, in my opinion!) and more on O’Connor, Jacobs and Freeman. I’m not saying they are all wonderful signings but the board have spent money, you can’t argue with that. Selling Shackell obviously went towards some of that and left many outraged at the decision to sell him, but is Keogh as good as him? Some think so.
I think the main man to watch out for in the home side is striker Simon Cox. He’s the Reds’ leading scorer this season and his recent performances have earned praise from some Forest supporters. However I’m not sure the Republic of Ireland striker is worth the £2 million + fee the club paid for him, he’s only really proven at League One level. The Championship could well be the right league for Cox to shine, having found it difficult to hold down a regular place at Premier League West Brom.
Jamie Ward is the biggest threat for Forest’s defence. His goal last season was one of the best I’ve ever seen for Derby, his fantastic run and delightful near-post finish at the City Ground will never be forgotten. The former Sheffield United striker is the club’s leading scorer and leading assist maker (in the league, Jacobs leads overall). I see Ward as being the key man if Derby are to make more progress further up the top half this season. Ward’s excellence on the ball and superb finishing puts him up there with some of the league’s best attckers, in my opinion.
I see this being a very close encounter, as most derbies are. I think there will be a red card again, derbies are always heated affairs with emotions running high. There’s no doubt that the fixture will spark up drama or controversy, local derbies always do like last week’s North West derby between Liverpool and Manchester United. Nottingham Forest will try and play their passing style that Sean O’Driscoll likes but Derby haven’t been given enough credit, I believe, in some recent games where they’ve played some good passing football.
This will be a close affair so I’m going to go for a score draw as my prediction.
COME ON YOU RAMS!