On Saturday Derby are back in action after the international break saw them sit through a two week break after the frustrating defeat at Nottingham Forest. The Rams will look to banish their away day blues at the site of their two victories this season. Two late winners have given Nigel Clough`s side maximum points at home, and they will be looking to do the same against the side they beat last season, for the club`s first league in almost a year. Kevin Blackwell`s Sheffield United sit two points ahead of The Rams and are undefeated in the league this season, with one win and one draw on their travels. They will provide a stern test and are tipped by many to achieve a play-off place for the second consecutive season, and possible even challenge for an automatic promotion slot. Either way, this points to the fact that Blackwell has built a very good side who will test any team in the Championship.
Nigel Clough has confirmed the fitness of previously injured defensive duo Dean Leacock and summer capture Shaun Barker. ‘Shaun Barker and Dean Leacock have played a number of practice games now, so that’s made a big difference to their match fitness,’ said Clough. “Both Shaun and Dean are ready, if and when selected.’
Former Blade and new signing Lee Hendrie is eager to prove a point to his former employers and more specifically, he wants to show ex-boss Kevin Blackwell why he shouldn`t have swapped him for Jordan Stewart on deadline day. ‘It is absolutely ironic that the first game since I arrived here is against Sheffield United but that’s football for you,’ said the 32-year-old, talking to the Derby Evening Telegraph, “I need to prove I can get in the squad first but I’d love to be a part of that game. ‘And coming away with a win would be a bonus,’ added Hendrie, ‘I’ve got a point to prove to a lot of people – the Derby fans, the gaffer (Nigel Clough) and the old gaffer (Blackwell), who I want to show what he’s missed out on.’
Skipper, Robbie Savage, is glad to be playing at Pride Park again. ‘Early kick-offs can sometimes be a little flat, but that won’t be the case on Saturday,’ said Savage in conversation with the official club website. “We all know how great our supporters are, but Sheffield United are bringing a big following as you’d expect and they will be in good voice, they always are. After all the drama at Forest we’ve been itching for a game, so we can’t wait to get back in action and it’s a big bonus to be at a packed Pride Park.”
Derby County Team News:
Paul Dickov, on loan from Leicester City, could start the game on Saturday as Rob Hulse`s partner, but Commons should be playing. New signing Lee Handrie could be handed a debut in midfield. Steve Davies is not likely to feature, and Chris Ported and Giles Barnes remain on the sidelines. Paul Green should be fit having rested his troublesome foot. Luke Varney is out on loan with Sheffield United`s steel city rivals, Sheffield Wednesday.
Player to watch: Rob Hulse
It seems boring and unoriginal to have Hulse as the key man, but having refused a lucrative move to Boro on the final day of the transfer window the fans will be behind him, and it surely can`t be long until he notches his first goal of the campaign. His first Rams strike came against his former club last season?
Sheffield United Team News:
Kevin Blackwell has to choose between goalkeepers Ian Bennett and Mark Bunn for their trip to Pride Park following the nine-month suspension of stopper Paddy Kenny for using performance enhancing drugs. United could choose to start with Stewart, signed from The Rams, and also Reading loanee, James Harper. United`s veteran winger, Glen Little, is back from an injury which has restricted him to a solitary appearance this season after his move from Portsmouth.
Player to watch: David Cotterill
21-year-old winger Cotterill has become a popular figure for The Blades since his move from Wigan Athletic in 2008. The highly rated wide-man takes spot kicks for his side, and The Rams will be looking no to give any away, having conceded two in he opening pair of home fixtures.
Match Facts & Stats
Last 5: Derby County
Nottingham Forest (a) 2-3
Plymouth Argyle (h) 2-1
Blackpool (a) 0-0
Scunthorpe United (a) 2-3
Rotherham United (a) 1-2
Last 5: Sheffield United
West Bromwich Albion (h) 2-2
Reading (a) 3-1
Leicester City (h) 1-1
Watford (h) 2-0
Port Vale (h) 1-2
Derby County vs. Barnsley, Tuesday 15 September 2009 19:45, The Coco-Cola Football League Championship