The Big Preview: Hull City
Pride Park Stadium
It's another important home game for The Rams with a clash against Hull City on the menu tonight. Matches are increasing in importance with every week and every game without a win.
Two decent points on the road in recent weeks have shown signs of improvement and an indication of a return to point-scoring form, but Derby's home form desperately need sorting out; Nigel Clough's side haven't picked up a maximum-points haul since a 3-2 success over Scunthorpe United in November.
Hull, on the other hand, are on a great run of form with only one defeat in eight games.
The Humberside team, managed by ex-Leicester City boss Nigel Pearson, have built up real momentum after a poor start to the campaign and sit in a good posision to push on and try to break into the play-off places.
Since relegation from The Premier League in May, The Tigers have got massive wage earner Jimmy Bullard partly off the wage bill (he is on-loan at Ipswich Town, as Rams fans may well remember...) and they have invested in proven goalscorers Aaron Mclean, formerly of Peterborough United and Matty Fryatt from Pearson's old club, Leicester.
The game presents Derby with another opportunity to put distance between themselves and the relegation zone but with the two sides 'enjoying' contrasting form in recent months, it will doubtless prove to be another very difficult fixture.
Fans favourite Miles Addison has called on his teammates to end their dire run of results at Pride Park.
Without a win on home soil since November for The Rams, the big central defender has called for continued support from the supporters: 'I think some players have been getting a bit nervous at home, because the fans' expectancy levels are a bit high,' he told the DET.
'The players just need to getused to it - and if we give the fans something, they will give us something back.
'Against Leicester, we didn't give them anything.
'We've got a good week coming up and if we can get through it unbeaten - maybe getting a win and another draw - I think that would give everyone a massive lift.'
ull assistant manager Craig Shakespeare has called for his side to avoid being complacent against Derby: 'You can get too caught up in form guides if you're not careful,' he told the Hull Daily Mail.
'Their season has gone the opposite way to ours but it shows you how quickly things can change in this division.
'They will have a good crowd, who will get behind their team, so we have to make sure we have a good tempo from the start.
'Their last couple of performances have been better and they've added to the squad well. Everything points towards Derby turning it around at some point, we have to make sure that doesn't come against us.'
The Rams Team News:
HOME TEAM NEWS
ean Leacock may return to the Derby squad after he missed the Scunthorpe game through illness. He appears to be sick on a regular basis.
He won't be joined by fellow central-defenders Russell Anderson of Jake Buxton, who are still on the way back from their injuries.
On-loan Liverpool defender Daniel Ayala will line up alongside Shaun Barker at the back, as he faces the side he was loaned to earlier on in the season.
Player to watch: Jamie Ward
Striker Ward will be hoping to emulate the form of former loanees Paul Dickov and Shefki Kuqi and become a fans favourite with Rams fans.
The pacy forward made his debut against Scunthorpe and looked ok, showing the pace Nigel Clough brought him in for.
The loan man from Sheffield United looks likely to be a permanent signing for Derby at the end of the season so he will be keen to impress the management team and fans alike.
He only netted one goal for United this season, but has shown his potential to score regularly at this level with The Blades last season.
The Tigers Team News:
Ex-Manchester United winger Cameron Stewart is out of the game after being stretchered off during his side's draw with Ipswich.
His knee injury may keep him out for the forseeable future. He may be replaced by Jamie Devitt, James Harper or Tom Cairney.
Player to watch: Matty Fryatt
Fryatt was reunited with his former manager Nigel Pearson when he signed for Hull in January and has started life on Humberside very well with six goals in eight games.
He can be a lethal finisher, but, like so many talented strikers, he is hit and miss when it comes to other parts of his game, often making him frustrating to watch.Derby fans will be hoping that they can produce another solid defensive display to keep him at bay, as he often only needs one chance to score a goal.
Basically, he is exactly the sort of player we are lacking.
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams' last five:
Scunthorpe United (a) 0-0
Leicester City (h) 0-2
Portsmouth (a) 1-1
Ipswich Town (h) 1-2
Nottingham Forest (h) 0-1
The Tigers' last five:
Ipswich Town (a) 1-1
Preston North End (h) 1-0
Scunthorpe United (a) 5-1
Leeds United (h) 2-2
Queens Park Rangers (a) 0-0
Sheffield United vs. Derby County, Sat 26 Feb, 15:00, The Championship