The Rams face a tough away day against fourth placed Cardiff City after the two-week international break.
Derby were denied a victory at Crystal Palace by a late penalty but there has been a clear upturn in the fortunes of Nigel Clough’s side.
The Bluebirds will present another difficult challenge, although a positive result for The Rams is certainly not out of the question, particularly in view of the excellent 2-1 home win over promotion favourites and Cardiff’s Welsh rivals Swansea City.
Cardiff boss Dave Jones is under pressure to deliver promotion having spent money and brought in a wealth of talent on loan from Premier League sides.
Hopefully Derby can tap into the pressure and use it against the home side by having a good start and making the expectant home fans restless. Man for man we cannot hope to match one of the Championship’s biggest spenders, but the signs are there that we are becoming more of a team, whilst Cardiff are stumbling under the pressure of being heavy promotion favourites.
Maybe it’s time for revenge after the 6-1 drubbing we received at the hands of the Welsh side last season…
Jamie Ward is happy at Derby but doesn’t want to think about the future before Derby’s Championship status is preserved: ‘I love it here,’ said the former Chesterfield forward. ‘The lads are good – I can’t knock them.
‘We’ve got a win and a draw from our last two games and that means the table is looking a bit healthier for us.
‘But you never know, especially in this league.
‘We’re taking nothing for granted – that wouldn’t be right.
‘We want to kick on, keep getting results and see ourselves safe rather than relying on others.
‘It’s all about Derby. As long as we win or come away with a point, we know we’re going to be alright.
‘It’s not about looking at the other teams behind us. It’s about focusing on us.’
The Bluebirds Team News:
Cardiff striker Jay Bothroyd has declared himself fit for the game. A couple of years ago I would have rejoiced at this news but he has undoubtedly been one of the league’s top strikers in the last two seasons.
Fellow dangerous striker Michael Chopra is definitely out, as is Mark Hudson.
Player to watch: Craig Bellamy
Man City striker Bellamy dropped down a division to play on loan for his hometown club, and the decision paid off for Cardiff as he has been excellent this season.
He may quit international football for Wales to prolong his club career but that may yet prove to be at Roberto Mancini’s Premier League side depending on the decision he makes in the summer.
One thing is for sure, he still has the skill and legs for the top flight so he will certainly give our defenders a tough test.
The Rams Team News:
Tomasz Cywka may come back into the side after injuring himself in the Barnsley game.
Russell Anderson is also pushing for a start, only his second of the season, after a long lay-off with a groin injury.
Player to watch: Jamie Ward
On loan striker Ward is hitting good form following his loan move from relegation threatened Sheffield United.
His stunning 30 yarder against Crystal Palace showed the confidence he gained from his strike from the penalty spot against Middlesbrough two games before the match in London.
He looks set to make his move permanent in the summer and if he keeps on playing as he is, he will become a fans favourite and a key player for Nigel Clough’s side.
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams’ last five:
Crystal Palace (a) 2-2
Swansea City (h) 2-1
Middlesbrough (a) 1-2
Doncaster Rovers (h) 1-3
The Bluebirds last five:
Millwall (a) 3-3
Barnsley (h) 2-2
Crystal Palace (a) 0-1
Ipswich Town (h) 0-2
Hull City (a) 2-0
Derby County vs. Coventry City, Sat 9 Apr, 15:00, The Championship