After the much-needed and much-deserved win against Swansea last weekend, Derby face another tough challenge with a trip to Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace.
Palace are one place outside the relegation zone, and are five points behind The Rams, but their form has picked up since being bottom of the table and looking doomed under George Burley earlier in the season.
New boss Dougie Freedman has got The Eagles playing decent stuff and they may pick up a few more points and move up a few more places between now and the end of the season.
The Rams have lifted themselves with the excellent result and performance against then-second-placed Swansea, so to build on it with another positive result would be very encouraging.
The Rams have to put in a good display and get back to the consistency of October/November to convince suporters that they are moving in the right direction.
This season is surely unrivalled for ups and downs but to end on a real high would encourage fans, that with the right investment, the side could be a force to be reckoned with next season.
Rams forward Steve Davies has netted three goals in six starts since returning from injury, and he hopes to see the side continue to improve: ‘We’re a bunch of honest lads and we all want to do the best we can,’ he said.
‘To get a result like we did against a top team like Swansea was great.
‘Hopefully, we can go into the Palace game with confidence, get three points and secure our safety.
‘Make no mistake, Swansea are a top, top team and, at times, we made them look ordinary, defensively.
‘The pressure we put them under made them a bit shaky, so if we can do the same at Palace, I’m sure we can pick up a point or three.
‘It won’t be easy but we’ve done OK away from home recently.’
‘It doesn’t matter that we are playing a former club of mine,’ he said.
Ex-Derby central-‘defender’ Claude Davis wants to get one over his former side:
‘Derby is in the past, I enjoyed my time while I was there and that is done now.
‘Saturday is just another game and it is an important game in Palace’s fight against relegation.
‘We need five more wins to be sure of survival and the best thing is to get them on the trot starting with three points on Saturday.
‘It would be good to go into the international break with a gap to the teams below us.’
Clearly Davis is a masochist after revealing he enjoyed his time at Pride Park.
He must be the only man in Derby who did.
The Eagles Team News:
Claude Davis may come back into the Palace side to replace suspended Eagle Paddy McCarthy, who was sent off in his side’s 2-1 defeat at league leaders QPR.
Player to watch: James Vaughan
Former Rams loanee Vaughan, who only made two appearences for Derby last season, was sent off at Pride Park in Nigel Clough’s side’s 5-0 demolition of a dreadful Palace earlier in the season.
However, he has eight goals this season and his pace will cause any defence trouble. The form of Shaun Barker and Daniel Ayala will be key in keeping him quiet.
The Rams Team News:
Tomasz Cywka remains sidelined with a knee ligament injury but should return after the international break.
Russell Anderson and James Bailey will probably be on the bench for the Palace clash after recovering from their injuries.
Frank Fielding will make the last appearance of his loan spell.
Player to watch: Stephen Pearson
Flying scotsman Pearson has been in excellent form in recent weeks.
The former Celtic man ofter bears the brunt of the Derby fans’ frustrations but his solid tackling and simple passing have seen Derby improve in the last few games.
He can often frustrate going forward, but he should be praised for recent displays.
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams’ last five:
Swansea City (h) 2-1
Middlesbrough (a) 1-2
Doncaster Rovers (h) 1-3
Sheffield United (a) 1-0
Crystal Palace last five:
Queens Park Rangers (a) 1-2
Cardiff City (h) 1-0
Burnley (a) 0-1
Reading (h) 3-3
Portsmouth (a) 0-1
Cardiff City vs. Derby County, Sat 2 Apr, 15:00, The Championship