Rams Deepdale showdown.
The Rams visit Deepdale on News Year Day for a top-of-the-table clash with Preston North End. It`s a huge game in the case of the two side`s promotion chances, but also for Rams manager Billy Davies who returns to his former club. Davies spent two years at the club and helped them to two play-off berths and it must have been a game he has been looking forward to, but ever the professional he refused to comment on the big clash until it was next-up on the fixture list. That day has arrived and Davies now concedes it’s a ‘tasty’ game.
The Rams sit in third spot, level on points with the Lilywhites, but they have a better goal difference. Davies said: ‘With the amount of preparation that had gone in at Preston over the past number of years, I knew at the start of this season they had a ready-made side and I expected them to be where they are.
‘But for us to be sitting there with the same number of points at the top of the table is remarkable. I’m looking forward to it – it’s the type of game you have to enjoy. I’m going back proud of what I left in terms of the condition of the club when I went away and the young players who have come through.
“I’m very proud of what I achieved at Deepdale, but I’m going there as Derby County manager, looking forward to a good match and looking forward to a good reception from the Preston fans.”
He added: ‘It was important we bounced back after Wolves by beating Plymouth and it makes Monday tasty. We are all looking forward to it and we will go there and cause a problem or two.”
The Rams will have another strong following for the clash as they have sold out of their allocation of tickets.
Preston North End Team News:
For Preston, Paul McKenna missed the game against Sunderland after picking up a knock against West Brom. He should be fit but they will be without Patrick Agyemang with a hip injury and David Mellor, knee.
Player to watch: David Nugent
The 21-year-old is the Lilywhites top goal scorer with seven. He is strong and has a good first touch. He will have to be marked closely by the Rams as he is generally regarded as amongst the most clinical finisher at this level.
Derby County Team News:
The Rams go into the clash without Paul Boertien and there are also concerns over midfielder David Jones. He was replaced at half time in the Plymouth game with a groin injury. Giles Barnes came on at the break and he could replace him in the starting line, although Davies rested Seth Johnson for that game so he will return to the squad and could take up the central midfield role. Mark Edworthy also picked up a knock against Argyle, but he should be fit to start.
Player to watch: Dean Leacock
The 22-year-old has been outstanding at the heart of the Rams defence this season. He will have a busy afternoon at Deepdale marking striker David Nugent. If he can keep the England under 23 international quiet it will go along way to ensuring the points
Match Facts & Stats
Last time we met
16-9-2006 Derby County 1 Preston 1-Pride Park
Endeavour outweighed the quality in a keenly-fought contest but the best of the few chances fell to the Rams.
Their shape was better than it had been in the previous home games, possibly because Davies sent out an unchanged side for the first time this season.
Carlo Nash was the busier of the goalkeepers and denied Steve Howard, Arturo Lupoli and Morten Bisgaard.
Howard’s penalty put the Rams ahead two minutes before the break after a brilliant run by the lively Lupoli was halted by Sean St Ledger’s foul.
Defenders must stay on their feet, especially in their own area. St Ledger, mesmerised by Lupoli’s dancing feet, went to ground and made the decision easy for the referee.
Derby’s lead was short-lived as Danny Pugh punished sloppy defending on the stroke of half-time. Dean Leacock’s defensive header was not the best and Bisgaard failed to complete the clearance. This allowed Pugh to pounce and equalise with a fine curling finish from 20 yards.
Howard almost won it for Derby late on when his header powered against the underside of the bar.
He has now hit the same piece of woodwork in three successive matches and it meant the Rams were unable to silence those visiting Preston fans who mercilessly barracked Davies, who left Deepdale during the summer.
Derby County: Bywater, Edworthy, Leacock, M Johnson, Camara, Oakley, Malcolm, Bolder, Bisgaard, Howard, Lupoli.
Subs: Barnes (for Edworthy, 63), Peschisolido (for Bisgaard, 82), S Johnson, Moore, Nyatanga.
Preston North End: Nash, Alexander, St Ledger, Chilvers, Hill, Sedgwick, McKenna, Pugh, Agyemang, Dichio, Wharley.
Subs: Nugent (for Dichio, 45), Anyinsah (for Whaley, 82), Wilson, Jarrett, Lonergan (gk).
Referee: Graham Laws (Tyne & Wear)
A Happy New Year and with the right result
Preston 1 Derby County 2