Tomorrow the Rams take on 19th placed Birmingham City at Pride Park, where Derby are yet to taste defeat since Burnley won on 22 September.
In the head-to head record, Derby just edge it. In the 107 meetings between the two Midlands sides, the East Midlands side have won 39, the West Midlands side 38 and there’s been a total of 30 draws.
The Blues are without a victory since Tuesday 6th November, also the last time Derby won a game, with both clubs suffering two defeats on the bounce since. Their start to the season hasn’t been successful, particularly with hopes high after a good play-off finish last season under Chris Hughton. Hughton’s departure to Norwich enabled former-Huddersfield boss Lee Clark to take the reigns at St Andrews, he’s since lost seven league matches, and picked up five wins and five draws, as opposed to Derby’s six wins, six defeats and five draws this campaign. Nine points on the road this season and 11 on home soil makes the West Midlands club a worse side, on paper, in away matches.
The two sides are only three points apart despite the Rams’ being in 13th place and Birmingham occupying 19th place. Both sides have struggled for enough consistency to be in higher league position this season, particularly the Blues who’ve not been able to pick up back to-back wins this term. Derby have, however, found some consistency this campaign, the five game unbeaten run from the victory over Nottingham Forest but not enough to warrant a higher position.
The Rams have rarely beat Birmingham City in recent times but last season they managed to do just that for the first time since 1995. Last season’s win over the Blues at Pride Park came on the opening day, watch the goals again below! In the other fixture, at St Andrews, Derby recovered from a two goal deficit to draw the game, putting on a spirited performance for the travelling Rams fans.
The sides met, one season before the Blues’ relegation from the Premier League, in a FA Cup fixture at Pride Park, the St Andrews side came out on top but the game will be remembered for then Derby captain Robbie Savage hitting the linesman in a hurtful position!
On the team front, Rams midfielder Jeff Hendrick could be dropped to the bench. The 20-year old midfielder has had a recent dip in form, failing to produce the standards of last season. Should Nigel Clough opt to drop the Irish youngster, Will Hughes is likely to slot in to central midfield with Craig Bryson. This could also give Michael Jacobs a chance to start on the left wing, whilst Paul Coutts is set to continue on the right wing.
Meanwhile, Jamie Ward is likely to miss the game. The former-Sheffield United picked up this hamstring injury in the victory over Nottingham Forest back in September and is also likely to miss Tuesday’s home game against promotion chasing Cardiff City. Frank Fielding is back in contention for tomorrow’s fixture after recovering from his groin problem. The goalkeeper, who hasn’t played any first team games since the 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough in October, has played in the Rams’ two recent under-21 matches against Barnsley and Nottingham Forest. Adam Legzdins has certainly kept the goalkeeping jersey warm in Fielding’s absence, the former-Burton shot stopper has produced some good performances that is set to cause Nigel Clough a selection headache. 21-year old American Conor Doyle has stepped up his training in a bid to build up his match fitness after an appendix operation, the Texan did feature in the under-21 side earlier this week. Winger Ben Davies will have a fitness assessment ahead of the game after sitting out last week’s 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace.
19-year old defender Valentin Gjokaj has joined 19th placed League One side Carlisle United on a loan deal up to and including 2 January to gain more first team experience having only made the one appearance for Derby in the opening day draw with Sheffield Wednesday as a late sub. However the Swiss youngster has captained the Rams’ under-21 side this season.
For the Blues, centre-back Curtis Davies is back in contention for the game after missing their last two games with an ankle injury. The game will come too early for Paul Caddis, who is on loan from Swindon Town and Stephen Carr will remain out with a knee problem. Birmingham yesterday swooped to sign 19-year old West Ham midfielder Robert Hall on a loan deal until 12 January, with the option to extend the deal. The West Ham Academy Player of the Year 2011/12 is eligible to go straight into the Blues’ squad tomorrow. Blues striker Jake Jervis has been loaned out to League One side Portsmouth after returning from a loan spell at Tranmere Rovers. Former-West Brom full-back Paul Robinson has had his spell with the club extended until 27 January. Ex-Senegal international Papa Bouba Diop has also had his deal extended to 17 December.
Goalkeeper and hot prospect Jack Butland will be tough to beat for the Rams while Chris Burke, who topped the assists charts last year, is certainly one for them to keep quiet. Marlon King is the Blues’ top goalscorer this term and will be looking to add to that tally tomorrow.
A reminder that the game is a a 5:20pm kick-off due to Sky Sports televising the fixture. Their coverage starts from 5:00pm on Sky Sports 2, injured captain Shaun Barker will be doing the punditry with Sky’s Peter Beagrie.
Come on you Rams!