March 8, 2013 by Made In Brum
Despite an improved second half, we conceded quite a fairly late equalizer at home to Blackpool on Tuesday, which was a bit of a kick in the teeth. I set a rough target of 4pts from these two home games before that match, so this is a game that would make me feel a lot more comfortable about the relegation picture if we could win. All 3 teams in the relegation zone are actually in very good form, so I’ll admit I’m going to have my Score Centre iPhone app open for most of this game, to nervously check the scores of the teams below us. A 5pt gap doesn’t feel all that comfortable at the moment, and the pessimist among us would say it could diminish in a couple of weeks. Then again, an optimist would point out that we play a Derby team with 5 key players out, without a win in 7, with little to play for and a side we could in fact overtake with a win. Well here’s hoping.
Team News & my XI
The only recent injury in defence has been to Hancox. The reason he went off on Tuesday was because he had a slight knock, and it’s been announced today that he’ll be out for 3 weeks. The most likely decision is for Ferguson to be moved behind to left-back and for Elliott to start on the left side of midfield. Ferguson didn’t fill me with much confidence at left-back against Blackpool, I know he’s played there before but I don’t believe he’s a natural from what I’ve seen. Therefore, Paul Coutts may have some joy down our left for Derby.
Nigel Clough’s favoured formation is 4-4-2, and that’s what I’d go with as well if I was Clark, especially seeing as it’s a home game. I was impressed with Spector on Tuesday night, so I’d definitely start with him. Who to play alongside Spector is a more difficult choice, because Clark has today confirmed that Keith Fahey is back in contention. To me, that would suggest Fahey will feature on Saturday, otherwise why come out and say he’s fit enough to play and then not play him? Then again, that’s just the kind of thing Clark would probably do! I would guess that Fahey will be on the bench and be given a 10 minute run out at the end, might be best not to rush him back.
With no sign of Ambrose in the first team squad, Spector’s partner will probably be Callum Reilly. Morgaro Gomis hasn’t started a match since his woeful performance against Watford 3 weeks ago, and Reilly has played a lot more. I think Reilly can have a lot to contribute to this team, because he’s very energetic, he’s not afraid to get stuck in, but he always plays the simple pass. He’s a good team player.
I would really like to see Ravel Morrison come back into the team. He’s the most talented player in the squad, in my opinion, and if he’s not injured then you do wonder about why he hasn’t played more games? He did make the bench on Tuesday. Unless there’s something happening behind closed doors that’s stopping Clark from playing Morrison, what I would do for this match is have him on the left side of midfield.
My thinking being that rather than playing him as an out-and-out attacking midfielder, which may mean the sacrifice of another forward, by playing him on the left and instructing him to float inside, Derby players won’t know whether to stick with him or not. Their right-back, Valentin Gjokaj (I’ve turned spellchecker off for this), is just 19 and therefore quite inexperienced, so he could get dragged out of position. If he tries to close Morrison down, Ravel can switch the ball across to Ferguson, who’s a natural winger and will have more space created for him to attack the flank. Then again, if no-one closes Morrison down, he’s a very creative player so he can operate in the spaces and will be allowed time a lot of time on the ball, which could influence the match.
The main problem with this tactic, is that to have both Ferguson and Morrison on the left is very attacking, so I’d instruct Callum Reilly to stay deep when we’re in possession of the ball. That way he can easily move to fill a gap in the team on the left or in the centre if we lose it, to reduce potential counter-attacks from Derby down their right, and buy Ferguson and Morrison more time to track back.
Up front, I’d stick with Zigic and Lovenkrands, and I think Clark will. When it was announced these two were starting the other night, I was worried that we might not have enough pace and work rate up top. To be fair, Lovenkrands did quite well to try and get in and around Zigic and receive his flick-ons, he was a bit unlucky not to get a goal. I still think though, that it’s important we all get behind Wes Thomas. My dad has said that he’s simply not good enough, and from what I’ve seen of him I accept the notion that he’s not a lethal finisher, but what he does give us is energy and commitment. The state this club is in, I’m prepared to take any player who will give us that. As we chased a late winner against Blackpool, it was his swift closing down that forced their defence into panicky clearances, which meant we could take control the match. I hope Thomas comes on again as a sub on Saturday, because he might not get the credit he deserves for harrying and hassling, but in my opinion what he does is indirectly effective for us.
In other news, apparently Marlon King’s operation at a specialist hospital in London went well, so let’s keep our fingers crossed he’ll be fit for the start of next season. My XI for this match would be: Butland; Caddis, Davies, Robinson, Ferguson; Burke, Spector, Reilly, Morrison; Zigic, Lovenkrands
Derby this season
Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The good news is that Derby have a poor away record. They’ve only won 3 matches on the road all season, and only Bristol City have lost more away games than them. According to Nick Webster, my Derby correspondent on Twitter, they have 5 first team players out. In addition, only Bristol City and Ipswich have scored less away goals than them in the league, and they are without a win in 7.
Here’s the catch. 4 of those 7 games have been against the top 4 teams in the Championship, and on Tuesday night they went to league leaders Cardiff and by all accounts, they put in a fantastic performance and deserved to win. Derby also have a very young squad, with an average age of 23, and have brought a lot of players through their academy this season. Until they got Chris Martin from Norwich, they were the only team in the football league not to have a player on loan.
I’m thinking a draw for this one. I’d like to think we could win considering Derby’s form, and they are poor on the road, particularly goalscoring wise, so I don’t think we’ll lose. On the other hand, the mistakes in front of goal on Tuesday from Lovenkrands and Elliott gave us a small reminder of how much we could miss Marlon King’s goals for the remainder of this campaign. Without a clinical striker in the team, I’m going to go with a goalless draw.
@JIMMYRICHO98 – Derby got a good point away at Cardiff on Tuesday night and are due a win, especially away from home. I’m going to be really negative and say we’re going to lose 1-2, with them probably coming from behind to win.
@benlowe22 – 2-1 to Derby. Zigic for us, Sammon and Ward for them.
@Greekbluenose – Blues to upset the odds and lose narrowly. 1-2.
@FAXBluenose (on no. of people predicting 1-2 Derby) – make that FOUR! Can’t see much light at the end of the tunnel #kro
@rich1875 – I’m more optimistic – so I’m going for 1-1. Both goals from set pieces.
@rinoriggins (on who will play left-back) – Ferguson I guess with Redmond in front of him? Robinson continues at CB?
@SmithyBCFC88 2-1 Blues! The Lee Clark results cycle starts again!
@GreggCollet – I’ll say 2-1 Blues win, about time we pulled a result out of the bag. Elliott & Davies. I realise I predict Elliott to score every week, but it’s bound to happen eventually!
By Gabriel Sutton