Tomorrow the Rams take on Barnsley, who find themselves occupying 22nd place – the highest relegation spot.
After a string of three successive victories, against Leicester, Bristol City and Leeds, it all looked good for Derby, even the play-offs looked a small possibility. Since then it’s all changed. A home defeat to Ipswich, whose manager Mick McCarthy was guilty as charged to burglary at full-time: “We burgled it. I thought I heard the sirens and I said ‘shut the doors, the police are coming!’ It was a frustrating defeat for Nigel Clough’s Rams, who dominated the game throughout and should have won but can also feel unfortunate to have had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside. Next up was out of form and relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers, further missed chances, conceding a penalty, having penalty appeals waved away and poor defending amounted to another frustrating, a word we’ve mentioned an awful lot this season, afternoon.
If you think it was a grim Saturday for Derby then you can’t imagine how bad Barnsley’s afternoon was. The Tykes welcomed Chris Powell’s Charlton side to Oakwell, the Addicks showed no mercy to the South Yorkshire side, who are desperate for the points in a drop zone dog fight. Charlton won 6-0. I just wonder if that defeat will be a good or bad thing for the Rams’ game there tomorrow. It could have demoralised them or, on the other hand, it’ll spur them on to motivate them to do better – an immediate bounce back.
Prior to the annihilation on Saturday the Tykes were on a good run. They’d come home from the Welsh capital with a draw against league leaders Cardiff, a draw at promotion-chasing Crystal Palace, a win against play-off contenders Leicester and, in the weeks before, victories over high-flying Watford and Brighton on home soil. Despite their league position they’ve proved they can be a tough nut to crack, evident in the results I’ve just mentioned.
Among their squad is former-Derby midfielder Rory Delap, who possesses a lethal weapon in his throw-ins, and ex-Ram Tomasz Cywka, who left the club last season. Striker Jason Scotland will be a threat and has proved himself at this division in previous times.
There are concerns over some injury doubts for the game for the away side. They’ll be given as long as possible to prove their fitness. John Brayford, Jeff Hendrick, Craig Bryson and Jamie Ward are the doubts – all key players for the side.
In the remaining games I’d like to see Mason Bennett and Michael Jacobs given a chance from the off, they’ve not been given much pitch time recently. I’m sure they’ll be contending to step in should any of the doubts not prove their fitness.
It has to be reminded that Derby aren’t safe yet, it’s a crazy league and therefore points are as vital as ever.