Stuart says Seven has a nice ring to it to me!

19 March 2010 07:04
Stuart reviews Derby County's away trip to Sheffield Wednesday Well we’re getting to the business end of the season, as they say, and there’s no doubt about it, Derby County are in a relegation battle that hopefully won’t go right down to the wire. Although I’m convinced the Rams have enough about them to avoid the drop into the third tier of English football, a look at the Coca-Cola Championship league table shows that relegation remains a distinct possibility. Derby County are 18th with 43 points from 37 games. Fortunately two teams are already cast adrift and it looks like Peterborough United (24th with 30 points from 37) and Plymouth Argyle (23rd with 34 points from 36) are heading for League One. Although I’m sure the Pilgrims and, to a lesser degree, the Posh will argue this point, it looks like there’s just one relegation place up for the butter fingers to grab… sorry drop. Scunthorpe United (22nd - 38 pts from 36) currently occupy that final relegation and Crystal Palace (21st - 38 pts from 36) are only out of the relegation zone because of their significantly superior goal difference. So the Rams find themselves four places and five points off the relegation zone with just nine games of the 2009/10 league campaign remaining. Right now, that feels far too close for comfort. If only Derby County had defended properly against 10-man Middlesbrough and not allowed Leroy Lita, the smallest player on the pitch, to find enough space in a crowded penalty area to glance home a header for a late, late equaliser. How the Rams needed the extra two points the win would have delivered? But it wasn’t to be. At least we didn’t lose. Saturday’s opponents Sheffield Wednesday (20th - 39 pts from 37) are a solitary point above the relegation zone and would find themselves third bottom again if Scunthorpe win and Crystal Palace avoid defeat in their respective games in hand. So the significance of the game at Hillsborough cannot be underestimated with just four points currently separating the two sides. A draw away from home would be a good result but a win would be oh so welcome. Manager Nigel Clough has some key selection choices to make too. Is Stephen Bywater fit enough to play and, if he is, does he replace David Martin (the Liverpool one) in goal or take a seat on the bench? Should he start Chris Porter who came on for half an hour against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night and changed the game? And if Porter is selected, who should make way? It would be hugely unfair on Tuesday’s man of the match if it were the impressive Gilles Sunu but, if not Sunu, then it would have to be one of the midfield quartet? Finally, in defence, did Russell Anderson do enough to keep out Jake Buxton again or will Dean Leacock, who made a cameo return from injury against Middlesbrough, get a recall? Nicky Hunt had a relatively poor game Tuesday night but, with no other recognised right-back, surely he will keep his place? The importance of Saturday’s game can be summed up by saying that at the final whistle the gap between the Rams and the Owls could be as much as seven or as little as one. Seven has a nice ring to it to me! Stuart Hughes 19th March 2010  Derby County Mad is on facebook. Search for “Derby County Mad” and join the group.