One of the toughest away games of the season in just around the corner as The Rams face a trip to East London to face recently-relegated West Ham United.
Following an indifferent start to the season, The Hammers have improved in form and sit in second place in the table, having won two consecutive away games. Indeed, they have picked up maximum points in six of their nine away games.
On home soil, luckily for Derby, they are not as tough a prospect. They have won only four of their eight home matches, drawing two and losing two.
Nigel Clough’s men are enduring a torrid time results-wise, although parts of their play have been positive and injuries are undoubtedly taking their toll. The team will surely be pleased if they manage to avoid defeat against Sam Alladyce’s outfit.
Livewire Jamie Ward doesn’t believe Derby’s underdog status will necessarily result in a loss for his side: ‘A lot of the ‘big’ teams have underestimated us this season and we’ve often managed to win or get something out the game,’ said the former Sheffield United forward.
‘We’re not expected to win at West Ham so, you never know, a few people might relax and we might get back to the way we were at the start of the season.
‘It’s going to be a tough seven days and we’ll have to work hard to try to get as many points as possible.’
The Hammer’s official site asked West Ham boss, Sam Alladyce, whether home form was a concern. He responded in typically bullish fashion: ‘No not really. When we do find the net, we score plenty of goals. But no goals in the matches against Bristol City, Cardiff and Ipswich is what you don’t want to see at home. Various teams will come and defend in different ways and make life difficult for us. Whereas away from home we are so good defensively, the opposition can’t generally break us down.
‘We suck them in and exploit the space and gaps they leave and find it easier to create and score more goals sometimes away from home. The last time at home, Bristol City put nine behind the ball in their own half was difficult to break down. When we did we didn’t find the clinical finish we needed.
‘That is the way this league seems to go. We have just got to keep focusing on ourselves and Saturday. Derby are a team that is started the season very well. They slipped up with a couple of results recently. We have to find their weaknesses and try and expose them. We have to try and get another valuable three points.’
The Hammers Team News:
Influential midfielder Matt Taylor should return to the squad after a calf injury, and England international Carlton Cole could also make a return to the starting line-up.
Guy Demel is fit, but Winston Reid, Gary O’Neil, Henri Lansbury and David Bentley are still out.
Player to watch: Kevin Nolan
Frankly, Nolan is too good for this division.
In his last season at this level he scored 17 league goals from midfield, which tells you all you need to know.
The Rams Team News:
The Rams’ problems mainly lie in the striking department.
A horrendous run of injuries has seen Nathan Tyson, Steve Davies and now Theo Robinson stuck on the sidelines.
Ipswich Town striker, Tamas Priskin, has joined on loan until January and should be a decent signing. He is expected to go straight into the team to face The Hammers.
Player to watch: Jamie Ward
Ward looked like the only player likely to make something happen in the defeat to Hull City.
The fan’s favourite is due another goal and seems to perform well on the road, as well as on home soil, after setting up both Theo Robinson goals against Peterborough United.
Match Facts & Stats
Derby County last 5:
Hull City (h) 0-2
Peterborough United (a) 2-3
Cardiff City (h) 0-3
Portsmouth (h) 3-1
Middlesbrough (a) 0-2
West Ham United last 5:
Coventry City (a) 2-1
Hull City (a) 2-0
Bristol City (h) 0-0
Leicester City (g) 3-2
Brighton & Hove Albion (a) 1-0
Derby County vs. Brighton & Hove Albion, Tue 29th November, 19:45pm, The Championship