Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Saturday March 17 2007
17th March 2007
Destiny in the Rams own Hands
The Rams enter the last eights games of the season with their destiny in their own hands. They are joint top at present with Birmingham City, and if they keep their form it will be the Premiership next season. But they have to finish the season off, and that begins today with a clash against seventh placed Cardiff City. The Welsh side is only seven points behind the Rams and will be hoping to close the gap, and keep their automatic promotion hopes alive.
Both sides are coming off draws, with the Rams drawing 1-1 at home to Queens Park Rangers, while Peter Whittingham smashed a late equaliser as Cardiff salvaged a point against play-off rivals Southampton at St Mary`s Stadium. The Bluebirds team for the game was - GK Alexander, McNaughton, Johnson, Loovens (Gunter 66), Whittingham, Parry, Scimeca, McPhail, Ledley, Chopra, Byrne (Thompson 60).
Subs Not Used: Forde, Walton, Green.
Rams boss Billy Davies is looking for his players to come to the fore and stamp their authority on every game between now and the end of the season.
"We need heroes, whether they're young or old. We need calm heads, and that's exactly what you get from the experienced boys.
"But at the same time it doesn't make it any easier for them - they've got to work as hard as they can, approach the games in the right way, they have got to fight the corner like everyone else."
Davies knows that a win against Dave Jones's side will put the Welshmen a long way off the automatic promotion race.
"We know that if we beat them this weekend we take that threat away from us.
"But they know if they get the points then they will close the gap to four so it's an important game for both clubs.
"We know the importance of this one, we are very much ready for the match and are looking forward to it.
"Cardiff are a good side with good players but if we want to go and do anything in this league we've got to face this game, be very confident and very positive.
"We have got to go out there and show our fans why we're sitting at the top of this league."
Cardiff Coach David Jones is looking forward to the clash and hope s his side are switched on. He said: "It was disappointing the other night at Southampton for the first forty-five minutes, especially when we're going out to win every game. We didn't play well in that opening half at St .Mary's - we played pretty football, but we didn't do any damage.
"People weren't doing their jobs, or they weren't doing them well enough. But in the second half we came out with a bit of fight and a bit of pride, and we took the game to them. That's what we should have done from the first whistle.
"So I've said to the players that at Derby we want to start as we finished the other night because that's what it's going to take if we're to get the results that we need.
" Some of our players will be tired after a long season, but we are coming to the stage where we have to dig in really deep, and keep digging. They showed a lot of character in the second half at Southampton, and we need that from the start of a game, especially at Pride Park."
The Rams may have a new face in the line-up today with Darren Currie in the squad after his loan move from Ipswich Town.
Defenders Michael Johnson and Paul Boertien also remain sidelined, and midfielder Stephen Pearson is doubtful with an ankle injury, but defender Richard Jackson could return after a long term injury.
The big striker scored in the earlier season game and will be hoping for a goal to continue his scoring for the season. If the delivery is on the spot the big man will deliver
Cardiff centre-back Glenn Loovens is unlikely to recover from an ankle injury, opening the way for Darren Purse to return from a back problem.
Striker Steve Thompson is expected back in the starting line-up after coming off the bench to score at Southampton.
The Championships leading goal scorer will be a huge problem for the Rams today. He has scored 21 goals and the former Newcastle United is deadly in and around the box. Dean Leacock will have his work cut out today.
The Rams ran out 2-1 winners, Bisgaard with seemingly nowhere to go, produced a Cristiano Ronaldo-type trick to leave Jermaine Darlington a bemused spectator rather than marker. The defender was still looking around for Bisgaard as the Dane was firing the ball low past Neil Alexander.
Bisgaard scored only four goals last season but has two already this term and has the ability to score more. Smith and Rasiak then wasted good chances as the Rams swept forward.
Alexander made a hash of controlling a back pass and the ball dropped for a startled Smith who instead of finishing, tried to go round the goalkeeper only to run the ball harmlessly out of play.
Smith's neat lay-off set up Rasiak two minutes before the interval and the striker dragged a shot well wide. He had clearly left his shooting boots in Kiev where he scored three in two internationals for Poland last week.
But the Rams eventually secured a two-goal cushion on the stroke of half-time.
Darlington, who had a shocker, brought down Smith in the penalty area and Idiakez calmly converted from the spot for the second time this season.
Bisgaard almost fired a third three minutes into the second half but there were few other clear openings as the Rams maintained their shape, content that the job had been done.
Derby were in cruise control when Alan Lee headed on a corner and Jerome hooked the ball past Lee Camp to give Cardiff an unlikely glimmer of hope, but the Rams held on for the points.
Derby County: Camp, Edworthy, Davies, M Johnson, Jackson, Bisgaard, Thirlwell, Idiakez, Bolder, Smith, Rasiak
Substitutes: Tudgay (for Bisgaard, 72), S Johnson (for Smith, 83), Mills, Peschisolido, Grant
Cardiff City: Alexander, Barker, Cox, Purse, Darlington, Parry, Whitley, Koumas, Ardley, Cooper, Jerome
Substitutes: Lee (for Parry, 46), Boland (for Cooper, 57), Loovens, Mulryne, Margetson
Referee: T Kettle (Rutland)
The Last four meetings at Derby
Derby 2 - Bisgaard, Idiakez
Cardiff 1 - Jerome
Cardiff 1 Thorne
Derby 2 - Taylor, Osman
Cardiff 2- Earnshaw, Kavanagh
Simmo`s PredictionI`ll go for Derby County 4 Cardiff 1
Date:Saturday March 17 2007
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