The Rams sit top of the Championship and the clubs main aim in season 2006-07 is a place in the Premiership. But on the weekend the FA cup takes centre stage with League Two side Bristol Rovers traveling to Pride Park for the fourth round tie (3pm).
The Rams on paper should have no problems in the tie but we are talking about the FA Cup here when the unexpected does happen. You only have to go back to 2002 when then Premier League Derby were humbled 1-3 by Rovers at Pride Park. A Nathan Ellington hat-trick took Rovers past a Derby side – whose goal game from Fabrizio Ravanelli – the Rams were heading for relegation from the Premiership in that season.
Rovers sit in 9th spot in League two, only seven points of the play-off spot, and are coming off a 0-0 draw against Chester at the Memorial Stadium.
Rams boss Billy Davies admitted he was considering resting some of his players but stressed: ‘That will not be to the detriment of Derby County progressing in the cup. I am looking to make one or two changes because some of the players need a break, but we have competition for places now and new opportunities regarding selection. The lads realise now they have to play well to keep the jersey.’
The Gasman are coached by former Rams player Paul Trollope, and he hopes the team will be helped in its quest of a cup upset, by an impressive following of 5800 Rovers supporters.
Trollope said: “It’s a fantastic backing.
‘You need to win games and be at the right end of the league and our fans have gradually come back to support us.
‘There is a positive feeling coming back and this draw has brought back a few memories of a game we won up there five or six years ago.
‘The traveling support should be fantastic and we will be doing everything we can to make it a day to remember.’
He said: ‘It’s always nice to go back to a former club and I enjoyed my time there. I haven’t been back to Pride Park since so it will be good to g
Derby County Team News:
Defender Dean Leacock sits the game out with a one-match suspension having picked up his fifth booking of the season in last week’s win at Southend. Also missing is Gary Teale who is cup-tied, having played for Wigan in the third round
Left-back Paul Boertien remains on the injured list with medial knee ligament damage, although he is making good progress and should be back soon. Boss Billy Davies has suggested he will make changes to his team, as he did in the previous round against Wrexham. Lee Grant, Lee Camp, Lewin Nyatanga, Ryan Smith, Richard Jackson and Paul Peschisolido all played in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday and will be hoping to press their claims.
Player to watch: Stephen Pearson
He made an impressive full debut for the Rams last week in the win at Southend and his forward runs and good passing abilty will be a constant treat to the Gasmen. His combination with David Jones will go along way to winning the game for the Rams
Bristol Rovers Team News:
Rovers go into the game with no reports of any injuries and Paul Trollope’s side should be at full strength. They are on a good run at present and are unbeaten in their last seven games in all competitions.
Trollope isn’t the only Derby connection for the Rovers, Steve Elliott will be in the side on Saturday.
Player to watch: Richard Walker
Richard Walker is Rovers` top goal scorer this season with 9 goals. He is a natural goal scorer in the lower leagues and will give the Rams problems, he will have to be marked closely.
Match Facts & Stats
Derby County 1 v 3 Bristol Rovers
FA Cup Third Round 2002
Derby County were an utter shambles at Pride Park as they slipped humiliatingly out of the FA Cup.
Nathan Ellington, one of the strikers Bristol Rovers have been able to develop for years, claimed a hat-trick as Derby’s defence, shorn of Chris Riggott, opened the way pathetically.
Fabrizio Ravanelli’s late goal had no meaning. Even after that, Mark Walters robbed Adam Bolder and hit a post. The ball bounced out kindly.
Rovers opened the scoring from goalkeeper Scott Howie’s long kick. The second saw Youl Mawene and Francois Grenet in a tangle induced by Ellington, whose shot was deflected in.
The third was his crispest finish but some relevant marking might have made it more difficult.
At the time the Rams fans were contemplating where Derby would go next, and it was worrying. They had no money to change the team and the most recent signings had not taken them forward.
They lacked a competitive instinct in the game and it suggested they were unlikely to climb out of trouble, and as we know they didn`t. The Cup provides a change rather than a rest and the Rams needed more than a good performance against Third Division opposition to dispel the gloom created by the Fulham defeat the week before.
Supporters were not given anything resembling a performance. Presented with a banana skin, the Rams located it unerringly and slid out of the cup
Derby – Poom, Grenet, Mawene (Morris 52), Carbonari, Higginbotham, Zavagno, Bolder, Carbone, Boertien, Christie, Ravanelli.
Subs: Grant, Elliott, Burton, Murray.
Bristol R – Howie, Wilson, Foran, Smith, Challis, Gall (Walters 71), Hogg, Plummer, Hillier, Ellington, Ommel.
Subs: Clarke, Jones, Cameron, Bubb.
The FA cup is always difficult to predict as the unexpected usually happens. Rovers arrive here with nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Rams will want to keep their momentum going and with this in mind I`m going for a Rams victory 2-1