Date: 20th February 2007 at 7:40am
Written by:

With the cup exit hopefully out their system Derby return to Pride Park on Wednesday evening to take on 10th placed Stoke City (7.45PM) in the Championship. Billy Davies will have the side focused after the cup exit and a win is vital to keep the chasing pack at bay.

Tony Pulis` side are on a slight form slump at present and haven`t won in their last four Championship games. The clubs official website said of the slump: ‘How can City’s recent results be best described? Exasperating, infuriating and galling are words that come to mind, but none of them can sum up adequately the sense of the fans’ and players’ frustration.’ Strong stuff!!!

In their last game the Potters failed to score and drew 0-0 at home against lowly Luton Town – the side for that game was;

Team: – Simonsen, Hoefkens, Higginbotham, Fortune, Griffin (Dickinson, 87), Lawrence, Russell (Martin, 78), Diao, Hendrie, Sidibe (Rooney, 57), Fuller.
Subs Not Used: Hoult, Eustace.

It is a stark contrast to a month ago when the side were taking all before them and Lee Hendrie was on fire. His loan spell ended at the end of December and he returned to Aston Villa, their slump began then. But he has rejoined City till the end of the season and is one of the Potters who need to be watched closely.

A former Rams defender returns to the club tonight, with Danny Higginbottom playing for City. He joined the Rams from Manchester United in a £2 million deal in 2000, playing 86 games for the Rams, before joining Southampton for £1.5 million in 2003.

The Rams visited Britannia Stadium this season and were beaten 2-0. They will be hoping to reverse that score line tomorrow night, the teams for the August 8th clash were:

Stoke City: Simonsen, Hill, Duberry, Higginbotham, Hoefkens, Brammer, Russell, Sweeney, Chadwick, Sidibe, Pericard
Subs: Sigurdsson (for Hill, 84), Pulis, Paterson (for Chadwick, 65), Dickinson (for Higginbotham, 69), Duggan.

Derby County: Grant, Nyatanga, Moore, M.Johnson, Edworthy, S.Johnson, Oakley, R.Smith, T.Smith, Barnes, Howard
Subs: Bolder, Bisgaard (for R Smith, 61), Peschisolido (for S Johnson, 60), Jackson, Idiakez (for Oakley, 71).

It`s a huge night tonight in the Championship with a full fixture list, with the top seven places only separated by seven points. Second place Birmingham City are only three points behind the Rams and have a game in hand, tonight they entertain the in-form Sunderland, who are in fifth spot, at St Andrews, while third place West Brom entertain seventh placed Cardiff City. Also tonight fourth placed Southampton travel to meet Iain Dowie`s Coventry City, his first game in charge at the Rioch Arena, and sixth place Preston host Norwich at Deepdale.

For tomorrow nights clash fans are reminded they can claim early booking discounts on match tickets by buying before the day of the game. Call 0870 444 1884, or buy online at the official website or in person at the Pride Park Ticket Office, which is open weekdays 9am to 6pm.

On Monday 22,000 tickets had been sold for the clash, of which only 250 are Stoke fans. It`s a poor turn out so far for the Potters who have an allocation of 3,000 tickets, but that should rise as the game gets closer.

Derby County Team News:

Derby: Darren Moore sits out the Stoke game with a one-match suspension having been sent off in the FA Cup fifth-round defeat at Plymouth. But Davies has a few more to choose from, and back in contention for a starting line up are skipper Matt Oakley and forward Craig Fagan, who have returned from bans of their own.
Also Gary Teale and Jay McEveley are also in the mix after being cup-tied for the cup tie.

Player to watch: Steve Howard

Steve Howard – A blank on Saturday for the big striker, he will be looking to turn it around against Stoke. If the service from Teale and Fagan is good it could be an excellent night for Howard and the Rams.

Stoke City Team News:

Stoke: The Potters will have a number of key players on the sidelines for the game. Striker Ricardo Fuller is banned for four matches having been sent off in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at home to Luton.
He is joined by the injured Mamady Sidibe, while Vincent Pericard is a doubt.
Teenager Adam Rooney could be handed a first start of the season unless boss Tony Pulis can bring in reinforcements.

Player to watch: Lee Hendrie

Lee Hendrie – He is back in his second spell at Stoke from Aston Villa. He has good vision and a good engine, he runs the Stoke midfield and starts many of their forward moves. He will have to be closed down by the Rams if they are to take the points.

Last Time We met at Pride Park

Last time we met at Pride Park
17th October 2005
Derby County 2 Stoke City 1
Phil Brown’s celebration on the pitch after Paul Peschisolido’s late winner summed up perfectly the importance of Derby County’s victory over Stoke City. Brown raced on to the field waving clenched fists before eventually walking back to his side of the white line and into a group hug with equally delighted backroom staff. Their joy was matched by that of the suffering supporters in a 24,000-plus crowd, a healthy turnout given the disappointing start to the season.

Not only could you feel the relief around Pride Park, you could almost taste it.
The winning feeling was back after an absence of 56 days – almost two months – and around 800 minutes of Championship action. Brown and his players have been on the receiving end of much criticism during the long wait.

Points are more important than the performance during times of struggle. Derby was not always convincing but they deserved to take all three.
And the score line could easily have looked more comfortable had Inigo Idiakez’s last-minute free kick gone in rather than cannoning out off the inside of a post.

But there was nothing wrong with the shooting of Idiakez earlier when he fired the Rams ahead on the stroke of half time, his sweetly-struck 25-yarder flying low past the outstretched left hand of Simonsen.

As Derby chased the cushion of a second, Stoke drew level on the hour mark.
Chadwick’s cross deflected to centre-back Carl Hoefkens and his 18-yard shot was deflected once again before finding the net via Poole’s left-hand post.

But Peschisolido, who did not have a good first half, took his tally to three for the season when he poked home a dramatic winner four minutes from time.
He was on the end of Bisgaard’s excellent low cross to score from no more than a yard – a striker’s goal.

This win eased the pressure and lifted Derby back into the right half of the table.

Derby County
: Poole, Kenna, Davies, M Johnson, Whittingham, Bisgaard, Idiakez, S Johnson, Smith Jackson 84), El Hamdaoui (Tudgay 74), Peschisolido (Nyatamga 90)
Subs not used: Camp, John.
Stoke City: Simonsen, Buxton, Hoefkens, Duberry, Broomes, Chadwick (Kolar 82), Brammer, Russell, Sigurdsson (Bangoura 73), Sidibe, Gallagher
Subs not used: Junior, Taggart, de Goey (gk).
Referee: Keith Stroud
Attendance: 24,229

Match Prediction:

Simmo’s Prediction

It`s a vital game for the Rams with the pack closing in. I`ll go for:
Derby County 2 Stoke City 1


Your Comment