The Rams meet Stoke City tonight at Pride Park (7.45pm) and the game will complete a full round of fixtures in the Championship. The Rams could have lost top spot last night but Birmingham City could only draw against Roy Keane`s Sunderland 1-1 at St Andrews, which drops them down to third. A goal in the last minute by DJ Campbell denied the Black Cats all three points, after earlier Carlos Edwards had given the visitors the lead.
West Bromwich Albion move into second spot after a hard fought 1-0 victory against Cardiff City, a 66th minute strike from Nathan Ellington was enough for the Baggies to move one point behind the Rams, although they have played two more games.
Preston are in fourth spot after a 2-1 home victory against Norwich City, while other promotion contenders Southampton lost 2-1 at Coventry City, giving the Sky Blues new coach Iain Dowie a dream start.
So a victory tonight against Stoke will take the Rams four points clear of West Bromwich Albion and they will still have a game in hand on the Baggies, and five points clear of The Blues, but they do have a game in hand on the Rams.
What we all know is it`s going to be a roller coaster ride for Rams fans, and Coach Billy Davies has the players focusing firmly on the ‘business end’ of their season
He said: “We know exactly what needs to be done but there will be plenty of very difficult games for Derby and everyone else in the league.
“There will be blips, there will be changes, so it is time for calm heads between now and the end of the season.
“We could be fighting against relegation, we could be mid-table with nowhere to go, but instead we have given ourselves a great opportunity.
“There are some great games to look forward to and we know how difficult it will be but at the same time we are very pleased to take on the challenge.”
Davies believes that will start tonight with the visit of the Potters.
“There are no easy games, whether you’re at the top or the bottom of the table,’ Davies said.
“We are looking forward to the challenge, starting tonight with Stoke.”