It’s the one everybody scrambles to check for when the fixtures are released in the summer, to check there aisn’t a holiday at the same time and to ensure it is pencilled straight into the diary. Yes, it’s the Rams against bitter East Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest.
Frustratingly, and in stark contrast to much of the Steve McClaren tenure, Derby have now gone four matches without a goal and are surely due to put a few away; it couldn’t be against a better oppsoition that everyone is keen to inflict misery towards.
In last week’s 0-0 draw at the Madjeski, Will Hughes picked up an injury and fellow midfielder John Eustace got booked to warrant a suspension for both the East Midlands derby and Tuesday’s trip to Ipswich. It means there will be another reshuffle in the middle of the park.
On-loan West Brom midfielder George Thorne is a clear contender to get a long-awaited nod. Yet to make an appearnce since signing in late January, Thorne has been an unused substitute in each game since making the move across the Midlands. Does this mean McClaren belives he isn’t as good as he’d hoped or is the match a little overwhelming for his debut? In the time the 21-year-old has spent as an unused substitute there have been occasions recently in which he must have had a chance to start yet was overlooked.
Fortunately he does have Championship experience to his name with games in loan spells for Portsmouth, Peterborough and, more recently, Watford.
In addition to the Albion loanee, James Bailey, who’s played little over seven minutes of football under the new regime and been injured for a large spell of the season, is also available.
In attack, things aren’t as bright as they were, but, like I said, the goals are coming. I expect Chris Martin to lead the line. Who to partner him? It’s a big derby match so Jamie Ward, for me, has to be the first name on the teamsheet, the forward oozes passion and has proven he can score in sich big occasions – as well as earning praise for his efforts at Reading. Patrick Bamford, Simon Dawkins and Johnny Russell are the remaining contenders. Bamford’s moments of magic are always worth keeping him as an option, while Russell has showed what an impact he can have from the bench.
Nottingham Forest are set to be without key player Andy Reid. The visitors arrive very much out of form, without a win in their last seven outings. It’s a chance for the Rams to push the Reds out of the top six with plenty of teams surely ready to jump at a ploace in the play-offs.
Looking at the match itself, it’s always difficult to know what to expect as it is a feisty derby. However, my prediction is for the goals crisis to end with a 3-1 Rams win and a red card or two (as ever!).
There are divided thoughts about who should be starting so please post your starting line-up below in the comments section, as well as any hopes or concerns ahead of the match.