Date: 2nd February 2007 at 2:00am
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Big test ahead for Rams at St Marys

Derby County sit six points clear at the top of the Championship and it makes their position a whole lot different. They have now become the hunted in every game they play with the pundits looking for sides to beat the Rams, and knock them off their perch. Billy Davies has instilled a determination and steel in to the side this season which we haven`t seen for a while, and in my opinion we haven`t hit our straps yet – may be the first 20 minutes against Burnley – and we are still getting the results.

Davies has signed wisely, and if any true Derby fan could say, hand on heart, the Rams would be in the position they are now at the start of the season, I think there isn`t many. We will need to be at our best on Saturday with a long trip to the South Coast to take on Southampton at St Mary`s (3pm). There is a big Rams connection at the Saints with former boss George Burley in charge and Grzegorz Rasiak and Inigo Idiakez, both former Rams favorites, in the line up, both who can cause problems, as we all know!!

The Saints sit in fifth spot on the table, but only seven points behind the Rams and are unbeaten in their last eight games. The problem for South coast club is finishing teams off – in the unbeaten streak they have drawn four, included two home draws against Crystal Palace and Burnley. A 2-1 home victory on Wednesday night against Sheffield Wednesday, has given the Saints confidence, with Kenwyne Jones scoring twice.

The Rams are guarantied a big following on Saturday, with the 3,200 allocation nearly sold out. Over 2,700 tickets have already been sold for the all-ticket clash. The club has asked us to remind Rams fans that tickets are not available on the day of the game, they are available to purchase until 6pm on Friday at the Pride Park ticket office.
The remaining tickets go on general sale priced at £22 for adults, £17 for fans over 65 and aged 13 to 19, and £10 for fans 12 and under. Traveling fans can also purchase their tickets for the St Mary’s Stadium encounter by calling 0870 444 1884. Come on you Rams!!!!!!1

Southampton Team News:

George Burley will be without the services of centre-half Darren Powell, who pulled a thigh muscle in Wednesday’s 2-1, win over Sheffield Wednesday and will be out for several weeks.
Goalkeeper Kelvin Davis faces a possible x-ray today after taking a kick to the chest, while striker Kenwyne Jones, who scored twice against the Owls, is a doubt after hurting an abductor muscle in the match.
Ex-Rams Inigo Idiakez and Grzegorz Rasiak both played against the Owls and will want to take on their former club. The South-coast club also received a boost in midweek with news that Gareth Bale is staying at least until the end of the season,.

Player to watch: Grzegorz Rasiak

We all know what a goal scorer the Polish international is, and he has 17 to his credit this season at the Saints. If he gets the service on the day he will be dangerous, he have to stop the service to take him out of the game. Better said than done!!!!

Derby County Team News:

The Rams three new signings James McEveley, Tyrone Mears and Jon Macken are available for selection, and all will be pushing for their debuts. Competition for place`s Davies has said will strengthen his team, but he has plenty of welcome selection headaches to contend with, particularly after a run of seven successive victories. Also looking for a spot in the team are Seth Johnson and Giles Barnes who missed the Burnley game on Tuesday.

Player to watch: Steve Howard

He is on a goal scoring spree of his own, with three in last three games. He has twelve for the season and with the improved service from the flanks from Gary Teale and Craig Fagon he will be very dangerous. He also holds the ball up well and brings other players into the game. He will be crucial if Derby is to take the points

Match Facts & Stats

Last time at St Mary`s
Southampton 0 v 0 Derby County

Match Report
Phil Brown was probably cursing his luck when news of Derby County’s goalless draw at Southampton filtered through to him.
Defensive frailties have been the Rams’ Achilles heel in recent times and nine goals were conceded in Brown’s final two games as manager before the axe fell.

But the new pairing of Darren Moore and Tomasz Hajto is promising to deliver greater solidity at the back, leaving Brown to ponder what might have been.
He brought both players to the club in his final days and yet was sacked before seeing them line up together.
On the evidence of a narrow defeat by promotion-chasing Sheffield United and a thoroughly deserved point at Southampton on Saturday, coupled with a first clean sheet in 10 matches, there are signs that Derby’s tendency to be sieve-like could be a thing of the past.
Man-mountain Moore and tall Pole Hajto were never overly stretched by a Saints side toothless in attack and woefully short of midfield guile but they still went about their business in a solid, purposeful manner.
Defenders are paid to defend, and they did. Had these two been together earlier in the season, Brown may not have paid with his job.
Full-backs Marc Edworthy and Michael Johnson, as well as Richard Jackson, who replaced the injured Johnson at half-time, also played their part.
So did Lee Camp, who produced a mature display and impressed his former goalkeeping coach Malcolm Webster, who is working at St Mary’s alongside ex-Rams boss George Burley.
A team cannot win games or think about winning games until they learn to defend properly in all areas of the pitch.
Greater tests lie ahead but the experienced Moore and Hajto appear to be enjoying their new challenge.
Moore’s no-nonsense approach to defending is refreshing. When the ball is there to be cleared, he clears it and asks questions later.
Hajto has caught the eye in the last two games after being unfairly criticised following his debut in the FA Cup debacle at Colchester United.
He played right-back on a painful afternoon at Layer Road but centre-back looks to be his best position. He is not afraid to have the ball at his feet and can find the right colour shirt with a pass.
Moore and Hajto marshalled matters as Derby restricted Southampton to precious few chances. When the home side was given a sight of goal, Camp saved from Kenwyne Jones and, crucially, Ricardo Fuller in the closing minutes.

Southampton: Bialkowski, Lundekvam, Higginbotham, Brennan, Ostlund, Kosowski, Oakley, Potter, Surman, Madsen, Jones
Subs: Dyer (for Kosowski, 46), Blackstock (for Madsen, 46), Fuller (for Jones, 79), Kenton, Smith (gk).

Derby County: Camp, Edworthy, Hajto, Moore, M Johnson, Smith, Barnes, Idiakez, Bolder, Holmes, Graham
Subs: Jackson (for Johnson, 46), Bisgaard (for Holmes, 68), Doyle (for Barnes, 90), Ainsworth, Poole (gk).

Att: 21,829.
Referee: P Taylor (Hertfordshire).

Last Time we met
7th August 2006 –
Derby County 2 – S Johnson (350 Peschisolido (90)
Southampton 2 – Bale (62), Wright-Phillips (69)

Teams that day were:

Derby County: Camp, M Johnson, Moore, Jackson, Edworthy, S Johnson, Idiakez, R Smith, T Smith, Barnes, Howard
Subs: Bolder (for Idiakez, 78), Bisgaard (for R Smith 62), Peschisolido (for S Johnson, 84), Oakley, Nyatanga.

Southampton: Davis, Pele, Lundekvam, Bale, Baird, Wright, Viafara, Skacel, Belmadi, Rasiak, Fuller
Subs: Ostlund (for Lundekvam, 6), Surman (Skacel, 90), Wright-Phillips (for Fuller, 55), Dyer, Poke (gk)

Referee: A D’Urso (Essex).

Last five meeting at Southampton

Southampton 0
Derby 0

Southampton 2 (Oakley, Pahars)
Derby 0

Southampton 1 (Beattie)
Derby 0

Southampton 3 (Pahars, Oakley, Ripley)
Derby 3 (Delap, Laursen, Beck)

Southampton 0
Derby 1 (Carbonari)

Match Prediction:

Simmo`s Predictions
The Saints have a good home record, but the Rams have been difficult to beat in recent weeks. It`s got all the hall marks of a great game I`ll go for Southampton 1 Derby County 2


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