Saturday will see the Rams return to FA Cup action in a third round tie against the League One leaders Tranmere Rovers (3PM kick-off at Pride Park).
If you believe this will be an easy tie, think again. Anybody who has ever watched the FA Cup will know it is full of shocks and surprises. At the start of this current campaign the Rams bowed out of the League Cup against lower league opposition, in fact Nigel Clough has lost to lower league clubs for four successive seasons in the League Cup.
1996 was the last time Derby played the Merseyside club, the Rams won the game 6-2 at the Baseball Ground. The last meeting was that long ago that the Baseball Ground was the home of Derby. The last six meetings between the sides have produced a flurry of goals. Here is a list of the last six previous meetings- Derby 6-2 Tranmere, Tranmere 5-1 Derby, Derby 5-0 Tranmere, Tranmere 3-1 Derby, Tranmere 4-0 Derby, Derby 4-0 Tranmere. If the tie, which will be the Rovers’ first trip to Pride Park, is anything like its previous matches then we’re in for a treat.
Last season the Rams faced a home draw for the third round against fellow Championship side Crystal Palace. An early goal from striker Theo Robinson put the 1946 winners in the hat for the fourth round. The season prior to 2011/12, Derby suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of then non-leaguers Crawley Town so it was a relief that Nigel Clough’s side got back on track in the historic competition.
The fourth round draw handed Derby another home draw but this time it was to Tony Pulis’ Premier League Stoke City side. Goals from Cameron Jerome and Robert Huth were the difference between the sides, unfortunately ending the Rams’ short lived cup run.
Rovers’ cup run so far has been pretty plain sailing. A first round 3-0 win over Braintree and a 2-1 victory over Chesterfield has put them in the third round. If their league campaign so far is anything to go by then Derby are certainly not in for an easy game. Out of the 26 league games Tranmere have lost only four matches, putting them on top spot – three points above nearest rivals Sheffield United.
With Derby carrying a couple of injuries they could well make a few changes for the tie. Perhaps the likes of youngsters Kieron Freeman, Michael Hoganson, Valentin Gjokaj and Mason Bennett will get a chance to impress. I expect the team to have a good balance between less experienced players and the more experienced members of the squad. Maybe current bench-warmer Frank Fielding will be presented with a opportunity to boost his chances of getting the nod of Adam Legzdins in a league match.