PREVIEW

Seven games unbeaten, 37 to go. The unbeaten Football League record set by Town a few years a go under Lee Clark may be under threat by Chris Powell's current crop of Terriers.

Of course the above sentence is a pipe dream but Chris Powell has turned around a side that were crucified by Bournemouth on the opening day of the season.

Saturday's 3-0 victory against Nottingham Forest showed signs of what Powell brings as a manager as the players played with a smile on their faces. The post match comments from the likes of Sean Scannell and Joel Lynch prove that his style of management is just what was needed to rejuvenate the club.

Saturday's performance was also one of the best performances since returning to the Championship, a complete team performance too.

Additionally seeing Harry Bunn secure a new 2-and-a-half year deal and with the likes of Adam Hammill and Joe Lolley returning then whatever the result tonight, the future of those who support the club and play in blue and white is rosy.

An eighth game unbeaten is a real possibility as Derby's confidence may be knocked following the weekends last minute defeat to Brentford.


LIKELY LINE-UP

Unless Jonathan Hogg is available after pulling out of Saturday's fixture injured then you'd expect Town to continue with two up top. The only question is will Powell stick with the side that beat Forest at ease or go 5-3-2 which was played against Ipswich.

PREDICTION

Derby 2 – 1 Town

It's hard to see Town taking anything from tonight's trip. The Rams will be trying to come back from back to back Championship defeats against Wigan and Brentford to hopefully reignite another promotion push.

Town, should they continue to play 4-4-2, can be left open at the back at times. Forest didn't manage to exploit it on Saturday, but an impressive Derby squad could do.



KNOW YOUR ENEMY

If you didn't know already, throughout this season, Thrice Champions will be getting the views of opposition fans, bloggers and podcasters so you know the story behind the club they know so much about.

Ahead of the clash away against Derby, we spoke to the Ollie Wright of the Derby County blog get the low down on tonight's opposition.

Here's what he had to say to our questions...


TC: In a division where anyone can beat anyone, how have you seen Derby's first third of the season go. Has it been better or worse than anticipated ?

DCB: If you offered any Championship team fifth in the table and three points behind the leaders at this stage, I think anyone would have to take it.  Obviously, morale has been slightly dented by consecutive league defeats - we're not used to that anymore - but overall, the results have been good.  Outstanding, until last week.

TC: What are the expectations for this season - given that you were so close to reaching the Premier League last season?

DCB: Given what was achieved last season and the club's success in keeping the squad together over the summer, the expectation has to be promotion.  However, you need a bit of luck along the way and the loss of George Thorne in pre-season to a serious injury was an awful stroke of fortune.  Thorne had been signed from West Brom to play the lynchpin holding midfield role in our 4-3-3 system, having filled that slot successfully on loan in the latter stages of 2013/4.  Doing without him has been a real challenge for Steve McClaren and has undoubtedly impacted on our season, so for us to still be in the top six despite that disruption is good going.

TC: Is the squad that McClaren has at his disposal got the right mix of players and balance?

DCB: In central defence, we have three senior pros - Jake Buxton, Ryan Shotton and Zak Whitbread - vying to partner captain Richard Keogh and nobody seems quite sure who the first choice is at the moment. 

In the absence of Thorne, we have two holding midfielders to choose from - Omar Mascarell and John Eustace.  This is probably the most interesting selection dilemma for McClaren and has almost assumed the importance of an existential crisis, to my mind.  Eustace is ponderously slow, but provides real positional nous, leadership and the kind of professionalism that means he will take a strategic yellow card at the right time to prevent a goal.  Mascarell is on loan from Real Madrid, for god's sake - and he is a completely different player.   Mobile, energetic, keen to get on the ball and capable of taking an accurate corner.  However, as a young player, he totally lacks Eustace's composure and 'coach on the pitch' aura.  Without Eustace, we can be a little bit too open - with Eustace, we gain an extra layer of defensive solidity, but sacrifice a touch of attacking power.  The purist in me wants us to go with Mascarell, especially at home - but the pragmatist can't ignore the steely value of Eustace.  And no, we can't play them both.

Further forward in midfield, we have Will Hughes, Jeff Hendrick and Craig Bryson competing for two slots, with Hughes - the youngest of the three but also easily the most creative and best passer - sometimes rested.  Leaving out Hughes, with his uncanny lock-picking abilities, is never ideal, but he is still only a teenager - frightening as that is.  On the wings, we have Simon Dawkins, Johnny Russell and Jordon Ibe, with Jamie Ward currently injured.  Ward's absence has been felt, as McClaren ideally likes to be able to change both wide forwards during the game.  Ibe is the most gifted of the three, as you'd expect from a Liverpool loanee, but for every 'wizard of dribble' moment, there is an exasperating loss of possession, or a bad decision at the crucial moment.  He's a young player and you have to bear with them while they learn, but the stakes are high and Derby need points to get where we all want to be.  Hopefully, Ibe will develop his all-round game throughout the season and get the knack of choosing the right option once he has done the hard part and worked his way into a dangerous position.

TC: Derby are coming off a few iffy results against Brentford and Wigan. Any doubts about the team preformances or players?

DCB: Defeats breed doubts, always.  Nobody criticises a winning manager.  McClaren is trying to rotate his squad a little and keep everybody fit - losing Ward to injury straight after the international break focused his mind on this.  However, decisions about whether to field Mascarell or Eustace, Hughes or Hendrick, Dawkins or Ibe are crucial to our success or failure in any given fixture.  These are the proverbial 'good problems to have', but still problems for the manager.  Up until now, McClaren has got a lot more right than he has got wrong, so hopefully that will continue.


TC: Which Derby player should Huddersfield fans worry about?

DCB: Chris Martin.  He relishes the physical battle, but also plays some fantastic link-up football whether he gets the ball to feet, or aerially.  He's as likely to create a one-on-one opportunity for a team-mate as he is to get on the end of a cross and gives all defences at this level a severe test.


TC: Which Huddersfield player do you think Derby fans should worry about?

DCB: I always look at the opposition's main striker and ask myself whether he is going to give us a problem.  The answer with Grant Holt is that he might, as it seems that his loan move to Huddersfield has come at the right time for him in his career - but Keogh and Buxton (or Shotton) will back themselves to marshal him.  Nakhi Wells' pace obviously provides a very different attacking weapon for the Terriers and it will be interesting to see how we deal with them as a duo, if they're picked. 

TC: What is your prediction for Tuesday?

DCB: We've become used to playing teams who play with one out-and-out striker, so if you field the front two, I think our midfielders will relish the extra space and licence to roam.  I believe this is a game we can win - and need to win.


Derby County blogger Ollie Wright was speaking with Thrice Champions' Greg Marah.

Don't forget you can still vote for Thrice Champions in the Football Blog Awards. For more information CLICK HERE

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