Having virtually assured their Championship status, The Rams travel to the capital to face Premier League bound Queens Park Rangers, who will surely hope to be promoted as champions.
An ominous task for Derby, then, but they have proved that they can raise their games against the top teams.
A fully deserved 2-1 home victory over 6th placed Leeds United has given fans a real boost, who now hope for a good end to the season to give them a reason to renew their tickets for next season.
A new-found ability to fight back from losing positions, with four points being salvaged from the last two games after being behind in both, has hopefully instilled a new steely determination in the side that has been so obviously lacking this season with late goals galore (conceded of course).
Ironically, the first time The Rams snatched defeat from the jaws of victory was back at the start of the season with a 2-2 draw against tonight’s opponents QPR.
Goals from Kris Commons and James Bailey looked to have given Nigel Clough’s side what would have been a fully deserve victory against a Rangers side with a 100% record up until that point.
Neil Warnock quipped that his side had dominated from the 96th to the 97th minute, after two late, late goals from Patrick Agyemang and former Derby target Jamie Mackie denied The Rams victory and set the tone for a season of injury time hell.
Hopefully the comebacks in recent times will ensure a repeat performance isn’t on the cards. Whatever happens, it is likely to be a tough match infront of the Sky cameras.
Rams striker Steve Davies wants to take the good recent form into the game with QPR. Speaking to the DET, he said: ‘It’s nice to go into tonight’s game with a little bit of belief that we can beat the top teams,’ said Davies.
‘We’ll go there and give it a right good go and not sit there thinking ‘can we just get a point?’
‘I think it’s the other games where we seem to fall a bit, the big games everyone is up for.
‘We showed very early on in the season that we can match most teams going forward.
‘It’ll be a tough game. They are top of the league for a reason.
‘We can go there and enjoy the game and see what we can get from it.’
QPR boss Neil Warnock has a high opinion of Nigel CLough’s side after their meeting earlier in the season: ‘I think Derby were the best side we played this season, up at Pride Park,’ Warnock told Sky Sports News.
‘I think that shows what the league is all about.’
Rangers Team News:
Neil Warnock is expected to name an unchanged side for the Loftus Road clash.
Matt Connolly should keep his place after coming into the side last week.
Player to watch: Rob Hulse
Despite only scoring two goals since his switch to London in the summer, Rams fans know all about Hulse, who was top scorer for Derby in 08/09 and 09/10.
If he gets the nod to start, it will be interesting to see how the defence, and most fascinatingly Shaun Barker, will cope with his significant arial threat.
Also very notable is Adel Taarabt, who has been crowned PFA Championship player of the year.
Robbie Savage has done a good job man-marking the tricky ex-Tottenham Hotspur man in the last two meetings between the sides, so he will be keen to do it a third time as the curtains begin to come down on his career.
The Rams Team News:
Stephen Pearson is expected to be fit for the match despite limping off against Leeds with a knee injury.
Gareth Roberts is still battling through the pain but should still feature.
Alberto Bueno looks set for a recall after comments made by Nigel Clough.
Player to watch: Ben Davies
Attacking midfielder Davies has notched an assist and a goal in his last two games, providing his with the boost he needs to truly start his Derby career after a quiet start.
To call his strike against Leeds merely as a ‘goal’ is an insult to the quality of the strike.
Rip-snorting net-buster would be more appropriate. He showed tremendous technique to send a sensational volley past Kasper Schmeichel in the Leeds goal from Stephen Pearson’s corner.
We were told of his crossing and striking qualities when he arrived. Maybe he is going to prove some of his early doubters wrong.
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams’ last five:
Leeds United (h) 2-1
Coventry City (h) 2-2
Cardiff City (a) 1-4
Crystal Palace (a) 2-2
Swansea City (h) 2-1
Rangers’ last five:
Barnsley (a) 1-0
Scunthorpe United (a) 1-4
Sheffield United (a) 3-0
Doncaster Rovers (a) 1-0
Crystal Palace (h) 2-1
Derby County vs. Burnley, Sat 23 Apr, 15:00, The Championship