Midweek Preview: Middlesbrough vs. Derby County
Pride Park Stadium
Derby take on a struggling Middlesbrough side this evening and will attempt to score more points on the road, where, ironically, they have been decent recently.
The Rams have notched eight points from a possible 15 since the turn of the year, which would be a reasonable return for a play-off-chasing side, something Derby clearly are not.
Away wins against the bottom two sides, Preston and Sheffield United, have raised expectations on the road (although it's easy to raise expectations when a big fat nothing is anticipated) so The Rams will look to pick up further away points, as their form on home soil is dreadful.
Boro have struggled in their second season since relegation to the Championship and sit in 20th place on 37 points, two places and three points behind Derby.
Rams manager Nigel Clough wants to stay strong on the road and avoid conceding silly goals: 'We have to try and stay as solid as we have been in the last few games. To keep three clean sheets in the last five games, in the position we are in, gives us a basis,' said Clough.
'There were a few mad minutes in the Doncaster game which saw us concede goals but, generally speaking, teams have found it much harder to create chances against us.
'We are quite pleased with the way we have scrapped in most of the games recently.'
Boro manager Tony Mowbray acknowledges that his side are struggling: 'We are fully aware of where we are.
'We have got to get some wins and we need three points against Derby.
'The team know there is inconsistency in their performances.
'We won 4-0 at Bristol City and won well at Millwall, while last Tuesday (1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest) should give us confidence, so we will put Saturday behind us.
'We have to find the same intensity and drive we displayed against Forest.'
Boro Team News:
New goalkeeper Paul Smith will start for Boro after the club suffered a goalkeeping crisis.
Striker Kris Boyd left to join Forest and will not be available for selection.
Scott McDonald and Julio Arca are both doubts and will face late fitness tests.
Player to watch: Paul Smith
On-loan Forest keeper denied Derby in the 1-1 draw at Pride Park in the F.A. Cup two seasons ago.
He can be unpredicatable, mostly on crosses, but he kept The Rams out with some brilliant last ditch saves.
Mind you, we won the replay 3-2 so I'm grateful for him for that.
The Rams Team News:
Tomasz Cywka will miss out on the game and could be out for as long as a month after picking up a knee injury on Saturday.
Ban Davies could come into the side to replace the Polish midfielder.
Defensive duo Russell Anderson and Dean Leacock have returned to training but will not feature against Boro.
Gareth Roberts will play through the pain barrier at left-back, as he continues to suffer with a bruised shin.
Player to watch: Paul Green
Midfielder Green showed glimpses of his first-season form in the draw against Barnsley.
His goals have dried up in recent times, but if played in midfield he can prove threatening.
Match Facts & Stats
The Rams' last five:
Doncaster Rovers (h) 1-3
Sheffield United (a) 1-0
Hull City (h) 0-1
Scunthorpe United (a) 0-0
Boro's last five:
Reading (a) 2-5
Nottingham Forest (h) 1-1
Queens Park Rangers (h) 0-3
Millwall (a) 3-2
Swansea City (h) 3-4
Derby County vs. Swansea City, Sat 12 Mar, 15:00, The Championship