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Noble unable to feature for Rams
On-loan striker Ryan Noble has been refused permission to feature in Derby's FA Cup clash with Stoke.
Rams boss Nigel Clough had hoped to be able to hand the forward his first start since rejoining the club but Sunderland do not want him cup-tied. Noble was a second-half substitute in the goalless league draw at Burnley last weekend.
With leading scorer Theo Robinson an injury doubt and Steven Davies not ready to start having only recently resumed action for the reserves after three months out with a skull fracture, Clough was desperately hoping the Black Cats would allow Noble to play.
On Davies' injury, Clough said: "After such a long time out, I'm not quite sure Steve is ready yet. He didn't head it too many times in his last game on Tuesday night and the one time he did head it, his protective mask broke and he had to come off."
Midfielder James Bailey has trained this week after he felt unwell at Burnley and had to be replaced by the fit-again Jeff Hendrick.
Stoke boss Tony Pulis has expressed his disappointment the FA Cup fourth round has been scheduled so near to a programme of Barclays Premier League fixtures.
The trip to Derby is swiftly followed by Tuesday's league clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Pulis' side then face another top-flight contest four days later when they host Sunderland and the Welshman said: "This round has been lined up with two Premier League games following it and it shows what other people think of the FA Cup.
"That is disappointing, to have it as part of a three-game week, but we will approach it in the right way and hopefully we will get the result.
"As soon as the game is over with, we will be preparing for Manchester United away, but that is the one disappointment - with the FA Cup, you would like to have a bit of time after it and you haven't because they have put a Premier League fixture in straight away afterwards."
When it was pointed out to him that Tuesday's match also coincides with the January transfer window deadline, Pulis said: "I didn't want to bring that up but that shows how well organised it is.
"You make plans with great difficulty but then that is the people running football."
Although there are plenty of other things to think about, Pulis has been keen to stress that the FA Cup - which seems to have dropped down the list of priorities for so many clubs in recent years - is important to Stoke.
The 54-year-old, who guided the Potters to the final of the competition in 2011, said: "We had a great time last year, getting to Wembley twice, including an FA Cup final for the first time in the club's history.
"This is a local derby and it will be a great game between two old-fashioned clubs in lots of respects.
"We've got great and fond memories of last year in terms of what it brought the football club and what it brought for us individually and for the supporters.
"To go and win this game of football is important to us."
Pulis is looking for a positive reaction from his players at Pride Park after what he described as a "tepid" performance from them in last weekend's 2-1 league defeat to West Brom at the Britannia Stadium.
He has been encouraged by their efforts in training since then and has virtually a full squad to choose from for the encounter with Clough's side.
The Rams are unbeaten in their last six matches in all competitions and Pulis, who made six changes to his first XI for the Potters' 3-1 third-round victory at Gillingham, has vowed to pick a "strong" side for what he is anticipating will be a tough assignment.
"They are on a great run and look a very solid, young team. Nigel has done a great job there," Pulis said.
"I will pick a strong team for Derby - I think I have to. We have to respect them for what they are doing.
"I think the team we put out will reflect what we think of the FA Cup."
Potters ease past Derby
Cameron Jerome and Robert Huth eased Stoke into the fifth round of the FA Cup as they claimed a 2-0 win against a lacklustre Derby.
Striker Jerome's close-range effort in the fifth minute and centre-back Huth's 81st-minute volley comfortably saw the Potters home at Pride Park.
Derby, who had won their previous five league and cup matches on home soil, barely mustered anything of note as goalkeeper Asmir Begovic enjoyed what was virtually an afternoon off.
It means the Rams have now been beaten by the last six Barclays Premier League teams they have met in the FA Cup, and this latest loss was richly deserved.
Stoke, last year's beaten finalists, could not have started this encounter in more ideal fashion, certainly after succumbing to an injury-time strike in last week's 2-1 loss at home to West Brom.
The Rams had kept four successive clean sheets coming into this match, but they were undone by a short corner involving Matthew Etherington and Glenn Whelan.
It was Whelan who eventually delivered a low ball into the heart of the area which was touched initially on by Marc Wilson before hitting Huth.
The giant defender then appeared poised to smash the ball into the net, but it was Jerome who had the final say by prodding home from close range for his third goal in as many appearances, and fourth in last five.
That should have been the catalyst for either Stoke to build, or for the Rams to mount a rigorous response, but what followed was an untidy encounter involving these two Midlands rivals.
The home fans, in particular, had to wait until the 27th minute before they were finally roused by their lethargic team, not that Stoke were all that much better other than the goal.
For the first time Stoke's defence came under pressure, with the ball bouncing around in the area as intended clearances failed to find their targets.
When a tame Dean Whitehead header fell into the path of Jeff Hendrick, the midfielder cracked an 18-yard half-volley narrowly wide, which was as close as Derby came all half.
From that opportunity, Nigel Clough's side then came within a whisker of falling two goals adrift on the half hour, only for Huth to plant an Etherington corner onto the right-hand post.
Derby huffed and puffed in the closing 15 minutes of the opening period, but there was nothing to show for their efforts other than two penalty appeals.
The first saw Jamie Ward fall in the area with Stoke skipper Ryan Shawcross in close attendance as they ran on to a long through ball from Hendrick in the 39th minute
Referee Mark Clattenburg was unimpressed, much to Ward's fury and that of the Derby fans, as he was again a few minutes later when there were shouts of handball against Whitehead.
Sadly, despite the apparent best intentions of both sides, there was little to enthuse in the second half until the 73rd minute.
Stoke started brightly enough, but that soon fizzled out, whilst Derby simply had precious little idea as to how to breach their opponent's sturdy defence.
Clattenburg was at least able to keep his hands warm by taking the names of Robert Huth and Andy Wilkinson for poor challenges on John Brayford and Ward to add to the cautions of Shawcross and Whitehead in the first period.
It was not until the arrivals of Jermaine Pennant and Kenwyne Jones in the 63rd and 66th minutes that Stoke gained impetus.
It was Pennant, in particular, who brought out a stunning save from Derby goalkeeper Frank Fielding in the 73rd minute from a 35-yard free-kick that was arrowing towards the bottom right-hand corner.
A minute later an inswinging corner from Pennant was met by the head of Jonathan Walters with an angled effort that just cleared the crossbar.
Then in the 80th minute, from another Pennant corner, this time an outswinger, Stoke clinched their place in the fifth round.
Huth was allowed to meet the delivery on the volley from 10 yards, with the shot possessing too much pace as it squirmed underneath Fielding.
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