Make or break?
Maybe it’s a bit early to go that far, but this showdown with fellow strugglers Sheffield United could prove to be pivotal in the fight for survival for both sides.
Both The Rams and The Blades are in dire straits and their form could hardly be worse.
The two teams have picked up a limp two points from a possible 18 and both have thrown away winning positions in recent weeks, Derby surrendering the three points after taking the lead against Ipswich Town, and United surpassing that ‘achievement’ by tossing away a surefire maximum points haul having led Scunthorpe United 2-0 at Glanford Park inside seven minutes. The losses were 1-2 and 2-3 respectively.
The Blades sit in 23rd place and behind Scunthorpe United who occupy the highest relegation spot. Derby are five points clear of The Iron and a win would ease the growing fear of relegation, whilst a win for a fellow relegation struggler combined with a loss would see massive pressure on Nigel Clough’s men, probably for the rest of the season.
They need to show real character to drag themselves out of this rut and to establish themselves in midtable.
Given recent results, that seems like a tall order, but there’s no time like the present, and Sheffield United are the ideal side to face.
Then again, they’ll be saying exactly the same about us.
Rams midfielder Paul Green insists that all the side needs to give them the momentum necessary to stay in the league and move up the table, is a second win in 2011.
‘If we could get a win, I think it would give us massive momentum between now and the end of the season to kick on,’ Green told the official club site.
‘We’ve been a bit more solid away from home lately, and we could have taken more than two draws from our last two games at Portsmouth and Scunthorpe.
‘It was just unfortunate that we lost on Tuesday, it was a sloppy goal from our point of view but we have to bounce back.
‘It will be a massive battle on Saturday, and it will be about who takes their chances on the day.’
Blades boss Micky Adams has slammed his side`s desire when trying to get on the end of deliveries into the box.
‘We’ve talked about having a bit of desire in their box when we’ve got set-pieces and we lack that and we lack it when we’re defending as well, so you have to question the heart of the players.
‘They certainly don’t want to get hurt, that’s for sure, defending them or attacking.’
The Blades Team News:
Norwegian left-back, Bjorn Helge Riise, brother of former Liverpool left back John, is a doubt for the Bramall Lane relegation clash with a hamstring injury.
He only joined The Blades on loan from Premier League Fulham in February. Wolves striker Sam Vokes, a former Derby target, looks set to join fellow loanee Riise on the bench.
Another loan player, Aston Villa’s Shane Lowry, is suspended after he picked up a red card in the defeat to Scunthorpe United.
Joining them on the sidelines are ‘combative’ centre-back Chris Morgan, Andy Taylow, Ryan France, Nick Montgomery and big forward Darius Henderson, who always seems to cause The Rams problems.
Player to watch: Ched Evans
Welsh forward Evans has finally started to justify his three million pound price tag after disappointing in his early Blades career following a move from Man City.
The former Norwich man has scored nine times in the league and is finally proving his worth to United fans.
The Rams Team News:
Frank Fielding has penned a loan deal until the end of the season and will go straight into the starting line-up, barring some more terrible goalkeeping luck which has seen Stephen Bywater and Saul Deeney ruled out.
Let’s hope the Blackburn stopper can avoid an injury in the hours preceding the game.
Gareth Roberts limped off during the second half of the home defeat to Hull City with bruising and James Bailey may also be forced to miss out.
Jamie Ward cannot face his parent club, meaning Theo Robinson should start up front.
Player to watch: Frank Fielding
Former loanee Fielding returns for his second loan spell at Pride Park, having made ten appearances earlier in the season, presiding over six victories.
Now is his chance to prove to Rams fans, most of whom are delighted with the signing, that he can cut it in a side on the slide and in very different form to when he was last here.
A last minute penalty save to preserve a 1-0 win would go down a treat…
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams’ last five:
Hull City (h) 0-1
Scunthorpe United (a) 0-0
Leicester City (h) 0-2
Portsmouth (a) 1-1
Ipswich Town (h) 1-2
The Blades’ last five:
Scunthorpe United (a) 2-3
Crystal Palace (a) 0-1
Reading (h) 1-1
Millwall (h) 1-1
Ipswich Town (a) 0-3
Derby County vs. Doncaster Rovers, Tue 1 Mar, 19:45, The Championship