Date: 13th March 2009 at 3:40pm
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A point on the road at St Mary`s helped Derby to keep the distance between themselves and the bottom three ahead of a testing away game at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United. Steve Davies` introductions as a late substitute on Tuesday very nearly changed the game in The Rams favour as he calmly slotted home from a mishit Martin Albrechtsen shot to put his side level and then very nearly snatched the winner with a run and shot that struck the inside of the post. The Blades were held 2-2 at home by Blackpool with a Cotterill penalty levelling the game to salvage a point after they had lead early on.

Derby`s injury list is still keeping a number of players sidelined with Chris Porter and Jay McEveley the latest victims to miss out due to hip and hamstring problems respectively. John Eustace did well in his debut after joining on loan from Watford for the rest of the season and looks set to continue in midfield whilst a loan deal for Barry Bannan looks to have been completed in time for the Scottish youngster to be considered for inclusion after joining for a month from Aston Villa.

Sheffield United have been in and around the top six all season and currently sit fourth, eight points off the automatic promotion spaces but with a game in hand and with the top three currently struggling to put together a run of results they are in a good position to take advantage should they continue to falter. The loss of leading scorer James Beattie in the January transfer window does not appear to have had a major impact on their season with a number of strikers already at the club. It was the presence of Beattie and new signing Darius Henderson in pre-season that led to Ian Blackwell letting Rob Hulse join Derby as he could not guarantee him first team football. They are currently unbeaten in five in the league, winning two and drawing three, since losing in the Steel City derby back on 7th February.

Vital Quotes:

‘When you look at them they are vastly experienced. They’ve got a lot of experienced players. There isn’t a kid in sight. “

‘It’s going to be a tough game, because they know it’s a big game coming to Bramall Lane. Everything I’ve seen about them suggests they perform in big atmospheres.’

Kevin Blackwell talking to Radio Sheffield about the visit to Bramall Lane of The Rams.

Sheffield United Team News:

Greg Halford is the main doubt for Kevin Blackwell`s men. New signing John-Joe O’Toole, loanee Craig Beattie and new Northern Ireland call-up Jamie Ward are all pushing for a start.

Player to watch: David Cotterill

On target with two important penalties in his recent run in the side and has another six assists to his name this season to lead that stat for The Blades.

Derby County Team News:

Rob Hulse will be looking forward to a return to his former club having bagged one goal against them already this season. John Eustace did well on his debut and may continue in midfield whilst a potential loan deal for Barry Bannan from Aston Villa may go through in time for him to make the squad.

Player to watch: Rob Hulse

His first return to Bramall Lane since Paul Jewell brought him to Pride Park in the summer. The striker has 15 goals to his name, including one winner against The Blades already, and will be relishing the chance to put one over on Kevin Blackwell.

Match Facts & Stats

Last five results

Sheffield United
Hull City (A) 1-2 Sharp
Birmingham City (H) 2-1 Webber, Cotterill
Coventry City (A) 2-1 Bromby, Morgan
Queens Park Rangers (A) 0-0
Blackpool (H) 2-2 Coid (og), Cotterill

Derby County
Nottingham Forest (A) 3-1 Nyatanga, Hulse, Davies
Doncaster Rovers (A) 1-2 Savage
Swansea City (H) 2-2 Porter (2)
Bristol City (H) 2-1 Porter, Hulse
Southampton (A) 1-1 Davies

Match Prediction:

Another show of resilience at St Mary`s earned The Rams a point on Tuesday and it was very nearly three when Steve Davies` effort crashed against a post. The Blades are looking to hit some form in the run in to sneak an automatic promotion spot and they will have just too much here winning 2-1.

Next Fixtures:

21st March v Barnsley (Coca Cola Championship) Pride Park


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