With all the transfer`s into Pride Park this week it`s been hard to focus on things on the pitch. This weekend the Rams face a tough contest when Sheffield Wednesday makes the journey down the M1 for the Championship clash. The Rams sit in second spot only three points behind the leaders Birmingham City, who are at home this week against Leeds United. Only three points behind the Rams are Preston, who visit Barnsley, so a slip up against the Owls will give the Lilywhites the chance to overtake them. The biggest decision for Rams Coach Billy Davies is does he change a winning side?
The Owls arrive at Pride Park on the rise, and their revival began when new coach Brian Laws was appointed as their new boss. He has seen his side move of the foot of the table and currently sits in 11th spot in the league. The south Yorkshire side have had some impressive away victories, including a 2-1 win at Stoke City and a 4-1 win at Leicester City. There is a familiar look in the forward line for Wednesday with former Rams pair Marcus Tudgay and Deon Burton hoping to get one over their former club in Saturday`s clash.
Tickets for the game are selling fast with 26,000 tickets already sold, with the Owls selling around 4,000 of their allocation. The Rams are hoping for a 30,000 plus crowd for the visit of the Yorkshire side.
The Rams beat Wednesday this season when they travelled to Hillsborough on September 23rd and came away with a come from behind 2-1 victory. They had fallen behind to Chris Brunt’s goal and had substitute Giles Barnes sent off but the 10 men rallied to turn the Championship clash on its head. Paul Peschisolido, a player who does not like the super-sub tag, came off the bench with 13 minutes left and equalised with his first touch two minutes later.
This didn`t go down well – a former Sheffield United player scoring on Wednesday’s home patch you can imagine the reaction from the stands.
It looked like a point had been rescued but hungry Derby wanted more and Steve Howard delivered.
The striker who could not buy a goal earlier in the season now couldn`t stop scoring and his perfectly-placed low shot from the edge of the box deep in stoppage time secured a 2-1 victory.
Derby County Team News:
New Rams signing`s Craig Fagan, Stephen Pearson and Gary Teale will take their place in the Derby County squad for Saturday`s big Championship clash with the Owls at Pride Park 3pm. Fagan has fond memoires of the Hillsborough side, as his last league appearance for Hull City, he played his part in a 2-1 victory.
Also available are Dean Leacock, who should return to the starting line-up after being rested for the 3-1 victory in the FA Cup clash against Wrexham, and Lewin Nyatanga, who is available after his return from his loan move to Sunderland.
Player to watch: Arturo Lupoli
The speedy Italian striker is full of confidence at the moment, especially coming off a hat-trick in the FA cup game against Wrexham, His pace and trickery will cause the Wednesdays defence problems and his partnership with Steve Howard will have a great input on the game.
Sheffield Wednesday Team News:
There are no reported injuries for Laws at present and Wednesday will have a full squad to choose from. No new faces in the Owls line-up, it`s been a quiet transfer window at Hillsborough, though striker Drew Talbot has joined Scunthorpe on loan, defender Peter Gilbert has joined Doncaster on loan and they have turned down Charlton’s approach for Madjid Bougherra. The first aim for Bougherra’s is to regain his spot in the starting line-up after missing out against City through suspension.
Former Rams Deon Burton and Marcus Tudgay will be in the squad although Tudgay has been out of sorts lately, and may have to settle for a place on the bench
Player to watch: Chris Brunt
The Northern Ireland international is the Owls top goal scorer this season, with eight goals, and is a free-kick expert and skilful winger. He is dangerous from set pieces and the Rams will be wary of his free kicks around the box and his deliverers from the flanks for the strikers
Match Facts & Stats
Last time we met at Pride Park –
30th April 2006
Derby County 0
Sheffield Wed 2 – (Tudgay, Best)
The Rams finished the 2005-06 season with a 0-2 loss to the Owls, in a poor performance from the men in white. It was billed as carnival day, a black and white celebration of the dawn of a new era.
The ownership of Derby County finally changed hands early on Saturday morning, as it had to do, and this was the first opportunity for the new board to be welcomed by the fans whose optimism has been renewed.
Pride Park’s biggest crowd of the season, stood as one and Chairman Peter Gadsby, who led the successful consortium, took a bow.
A firework display greeted the players and with the scene set, the aim was to end a torrid season on a high.
But alas the Rams were defeated 0-2 by Wednesday. Derby played well in patches but never really threatened to find the net.
It was ironic that Wednesday’s front pair of Marcus Tudgay and Deon Burton were both ex-Rams players. They gave the Owls an edge, an attacking threat. It was Tudgay who put Wednesday ahead after five minutes and, to his credit, he did not celebrate scoring against his old club. It was 0-1 at the break, but could the Rams see out the season in style? Sadly, no!!!
They huffed and puffed unconvincingly but never seriously stretched Scott Carson in the Owls goal and Wednesday grabbed a second goal five minutes from the end of a tedious second period.
Tudgay was involved again, setting up substitute Leon Best, who held off Nyatanga before his shot struck the young defender and the ball looped over a stranded Camp.
Thankfully, a depressing campaign has come to a close but the hard work starts now.
Derby County: Camp, Nyatanga, Moore, Edworthy, M Johnson, Bisgaard, S Johnson, Bolder, Barnes, Smith, Peschisolido
Subs: Holmes (for Peschisolido, 46), McIndoe (for Bisgaard, 64), Jackson, Thirlwell, Poole.
Sheffield Wednesday: Carson, Bullen, Coughlan , Diallo, Spurr, Folly, O’Brien, McGovern, McAllister, Tudgay, Burton
Subs: Best (for McGovern, 78), MacLean, Collins, Partridge, Adamson.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Last five home meetings between The Rams & Owls
Derby County 0
Sheffield Wed 2 – (Tudgay, Best)
Derby County 2 – (Bolder (2))
Sheffield Wed 2 – (own goal, Crane)
Derby County 3 – (Strupar, Burley, Christie)
Sheffield Wed 3 – (de Bilde, Sibon, Donnelly)
Derby County 1 – (Sturridge)
Sheffield Wed 0
Derby County 3 – (Wanchope (2), Rowett )
Sheffield Wed 0
The Owls have improved under Laws and will give the Rams a tough game. Will the new singings disrupt the Rams cohesion? In a tight contest – Derby County 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0
Jan 20th – Southend v Derby – Roots Hall – Championship
Jan 27th – Derby v Bristol Rovers – Pride Park – FA Cup fourth round
Jan 31st – Derby v Burnley – Pride Park – Championship
Feb 3rd – Southampton v Derby – St Mary`s Stadium – Championship