Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Sunday May 27 2007
28th May 2007
Championship play-off Final - Preview
On Monday afternoon Billy Davies will lead out the Rams for one the most important game in the clubs history. A victory against West Bromwich Albion in the Championship play-off final, will give the Rams a place in the Premiership for next season, and the financial windfall that this brings.
Most supporters will be heading to Wembley hoping for a better result than their last visit a 1-2 loss to Leicester City in the 1994 play-off final. The Rams went agonizingly close to automatic promotion this season but fell at the last hurdle and their tense penalty shoot-out victory against Southampton sees them on the precipice of a return to the elite of English football.
It will be a great achievement to reach the Premier League in the first season under Davies, who has also experienced heartbreak at this stage in his time at Preston North End. What ever happens it will be a season to remember for all Rams fans but as all the Rams fans head down Wembley Way on Monday they will have only one thing to say - "COME ON YOU RAMS !!!!`
The Rams squad is fully fit, giving Davies a good selection headache to have. Will he start Seth Johnson instead of youngster David Jones? Johnson performed well in the semi-final and his hunger in midfield will be needed to cope with Jason Koumas and co.
The key battle in the game will be the Rams defence against a potent Baggies strike force. Kevin Phillips has hit a rich vein of scoring and will have to be watched closely by Dean Leacock. Darren Moore will have his hands full with Diomansy Kamara, but if both the Rams centre-back`s can do their jobs nullifying the pair will go a long way to seeing the Rams win.
But saying that the Baggies will need to watch Steve Howard closely, his double at St Mary`s Stadium gave the Rams a 2-1 victory in the first leg of the semi-final. His aerial threat will be vital for the Rams and Sam Sodje will probably get the big man. Also will Davies go for Jon Mackin to partner Howard or will he gamble on Giles Barnes, who defiantly looked like he was struggling with his knee injury in the semi-final.
Between the sticks both sides have experience, Steven Bywater has been superb this season for the Rams and he will need to show this again on Monday. The Baggies have former Charlton Athletic keeper Dean Kiely, who was also superb in the play-off semi-final victory against Wolves.
It`s too hard to predict, as most Rams would say. But with Davies spirit showing through to the team, I`ll go for a Rams victory 3-1 and a return to the Promised Land, that is the Premier League.
Vital football`s Likely starting line-up
Rams GK Bywater, Mears, Moore, Leacock, McEveley, Fagan, Oakley, Johnson (S), Pearson, Mackin, Howard.
WBA GK Kiely, McShane, Sodje, Perry, Robinson, Gera, Koren, Greening, Koumas Phillips, Kamara.
Referee for the game - Graham Poll
Rams boss Billy Davies has a fully fit squad to choose from for the Championship play-off final at Wembley. Experienced forward Paul Peschisolido (hamstring) and Danish midfielder Morten Bisgaard (ankle) are both fit after shaking off injuries. Giles Barnes (knee) still has a injury cloud hanging over him but should be OK
Howard`s aerial threat will be vital for the Rams. But his work off the ball is also a huge part of his game and he will have to marked closely by Sodje to stop him. Johnson has been a colossus in midfield in the two semi-final legs. His work rate and fierce tackling has given the opposition midfield no time on the ball, his battle with Koumas will be interesting to say the least.
West Bromwich Albion will be without Captain Curtis Davies, who is still out with a broken metatarsal that he sustained against Crystal Palace on 14 March. But boss Tony Mowbray has no other injuries or suspensions to worry about.
Phillips is playing well at the right time of the season for the Baggies. His partnership with Kamara has paid dividends and Leacock and Moore will have to on their toes. Koumas is a talented midfielder and his surging runs will, if not checked, will cause problems for the Rams. He and Greening will cause the Rams problems if not closed down.
WBA 1 Derby County 0 - 4th December 2006
The Rams faced Albion at the Hawthorns looking for a seventh consecutive victory for the first time in 11 years and lost 1-0 to an 89th-minute John Hartson strike.
Four defeats in their previous five outings, including one at Derby, had left new boss Tony Mowbray scratching his head and warning his players that they were playing for their futures as the January transfer window looms.
The threat of Diomansy Kamara and Kevin Phillips, fuelled by the quality of Jason Koumas, failed to bring the goal Mowbray craved but the experienced Hartson delivered when a goalless draw appeared the likely outcome.
He cleverly outwitted Dean Leacock to chest down Paul Robinson's long punt forward before moving into the area and firing a shot past Stephen Bywater, He also had the help of a deflection off Paul Boertien.
No-one could begrudge Albion the three points.
They were the better side in the first half as the Rams looked leggy following their efforts against Ipswich a few days earlier.
Backed by another army of fans - around 2,700 - they improved after the break and went close to collecting what would have been a fine away point.
To be felled by such a late sucker-punch was tough on goalkeeper Stephen Bywater and the defence.
Bywater was outstanding.
He pushed away a swerving drive from Nigel Quashie, saved at the feet of Phillips when the striker was clear in the box and brilliantly tipped Kamara's shot on to the bar, but was beaten late by Hartson..
WBA: Hoult, Albrechtsen, Davies, McShane, Robinson, Gera, Greening, Quashie, Koumas, Phillips, Kamara
Subs: Hartson (for Kamara, 63), Clement (for Koumas, 90), Ellington, Hodgkiss, Steele (gk)
Derby County: Bywater, Edworthy, Leacock, M Johnson, Boertien, Barnes, Bolder, Jones, Stead, Howard, Lupoli
Subs: Moore (for M Johnson, 16), Bisgaard (for Stead, 64), Peschisolido (for Lupoli, 81), S Johnson, Grant (gk)
Scorers: Hartson (89)
Referee: R Booth (Nottinghamshire)
Derby County 2 WBA 1 - 6th November 2006
You cannot write off the Rams at the moment because they are defying the odds to snatch improbable victories from the jaws of defeat.
Twice in a matter of a few days they stumbled around in a confused manner for an hour of a home game before finding their feet to bag three points.
It happened against Barnsley last Wednesday when the Rams were fortunate to be only one down before a Giles Barnes double turned the contest on its head.
And there was a case of deja vu on Saturday when one of the Championship's promotion favourites, West Bromwich Albion, visited Pride Park.
Albion dominated the opening 45 minutes and led through Richard Chaplow's goal. They should have been out of sight by the time skipper Matt Oakley levelled with a screamer from 25-yards after 69 minutes and then up popped Barnes again to score the winner four minutes later.
Cue wild celebrations on and off the pitch.
Derby County: Bywater Edworthy Leacock M.Johnson Camara Barnes S.Johnson Oakley Bisgaard Howard Lupoli
Subs: Smith (for S Johnson, 46), Stead (for Lupoli, 59), Moore (for Bisgaard, 90), Bolder, Grant (gk)
WBA: Hoult Watson Davies Perry Albrechtsen Gera Greening Chaplow Koumas Ellington Kamara
Subs: Phillips (for Ellington, 59), Hartson (for Gera, 88), McShane, Wallwork, Steele (gk)
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire)
Simmo's Prediction It`s too hard to predict, as most Rams would say. But with Davies spirit showing through to the team, I`ll go for a Rams victory 3-1 and a return to the Promised Land, that is the Premier League.
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Date:Sunday May 27 2007
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