After some poor games, I was looking forward to facing Accrington Stanley, writes Tom Morton.
Accy have had a completely identical start to the season as us (albeit without a thrashing in there) which hopefully meant something we could make a game of. Derby, on the other hand, feels like a challenging ride. Or at least you might assume. We all know their story; financial mismanagement and massive point deductions relegated them pretty much from the start of last season. Prior to that, though, they had been a consistent Championship team and you might expect them to bounce back up.
In reality, the Rams have had a very mixed season. First of all their summer transfer business. Boy, it was busy with seventeen players leaving (including most of the first team) and eighteen signings. Those incomings, though, do have Championship pedigree – Joe Wildsmith, for example, who has experience with Sheffield Wednesday, or Tom Barkhuizen who played six full seasons with Preston. A few long-term retentions, such as Craig Forsyth who has been with the club for nearly a decade, form the core of the squad.
If you look just at home performance, these players seem to have gelled quickly and hit the ground running. Three good home wins (including one against Peterborough) plus a tight loss to Plymouth suggests a team in the thick of it. Indeed they sit a decent ninth going into Tuesday’s game.
However, we need to talk about their away performance. By contrast, it looks like that of a team struggling to get into gear. Not only have they failed to win (1 loss, 2 draws) but they have also failed to score a goal away from home. That should be quite a worry for fans, it’s the sort of performance that if you don’t turn it around will cost even the playoffs.
So on stats, we are in a good position on Tuesday. Our xG at home is 1.05 but we’ve scored 1.33 per game. In contrast, Derby are hugely underperforming on their xG of 1.88. But let’s not get too overconfident. We are, of course, yet to win at home and Derby are fielding a team with a huge amount of first and second-tier experience. There is no doubt it will be a tough game.
Derby will like up 4-2-3-1 with James Collins leading the attack. Who do you pick as the danger man? Possibly Conor Hourihane, with recent Premiership experience at Aston Villa? I suspect the main danger will be from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. He’s been hanging around the Championship and League One for a while and in highlights, he looks very sharp. With the ball at his feet expect a burst of speed or a quick bit of skill to lose the defenders and get in on goal. I feel like we need to pin him down or risk losing the game early on.
It’s hard to see much of a weakness in their game. Expect them to play fast and pacey football (of the sort we saw from Peterborough) with a lot of quick passing and cross-field balls. At the back, they do look fairly tight but their central defence does get drawn in close at times which might create some opportunities for our wingers or someone like Bishop storming into the box.
As you would imagine, we’ve had very little to do with Derby since the late eighties when they dipped into Division Three for several seasons. Overall our record is not great, we’ve mostly lost over the years. A nice exception is our first-round league cup clash in 2004. An early goal seemed to give them an easy ride, but three late goals from Taylor-Fletcher, Yeo and McComber (all legends of the club) turned it around. Worth watching the highlights to reminisce – Yeo’s goal is particularly good.
Who knows what will happen tomorrow night. Will we turn over a struggling Derby to record a first home win, or will the experienced opposition switch it on for the first time this season? We can only be hopeful.