After getting back to winning ways on Saturday, Derby tonight face Preston North End in search for successive league wins for the first time since January.
Preston, managed by Simon Grayson, travel to Pride Park in a brilliant run of form, losing only two of their last ten. They sit ninth, one place and one point ahead of Derby, nine points off the top six. After a five match unbeaten run, on Saturday they were beaten 3-1 by the league’s form team Fulham, leaving their play off hopes slightly damaged.
The Rams come into the game with just three wins from their last ten league, but after ending a six match winless run at the weekend by beating Barnsley 2-1, they are in a relatively positive mood. In order to maintain that, Steve McClaren will be looking for a win to propel his side above tonight’s opponents.
Striker Darren Bent is back in training with Derby and could return to the side after a groin injury and illness ruled him out of the past two games.
Captain Richard Keogh (calf) will again miss out alongside fellow defender Jason Shackell (back) and striker Nick Blackman (knee).
Preston are likely to be without defenders Alex Baptiste, Tyias Browning and Calum Woods who are all ruled out with knee injuries. Marnick Vermijl continues to recover from hernia surgery so will also miss out.
One player who will be key for Preston is skilful winger and loanee Aiden McGeady. This season, in 23 appearances, McGeady has scored four and assisted eight goals, six of which (three goals, three assists) have come in his last five games. Republic of Ireland international McGeady will be hoping to create opportunities for frontman Jordan Hugill. 24 year old Hugill has this season scored ten league goals and will be hoping to add to his tally in what has so far been his best scoring campaign for the Lilywhites.
In Saturday’s win against Barnsley, Derby began with a 4-2-3-1 system rather than the usual 4-3-3. Though it took around twenty minutes to get used to, the Rams soon began to attack freely, at pace, getting numbers into the box. It is likely that Steve McClaren will again opt with the 4-2-3-1 and very similar personnel after most of those who featured put in a strong performance.
Likely Derby lineup (4-2-3-1): Carson, Christie, Baird, Pearce, Olsson; Butterfield, Johnson; Russell, Ince, Vydra; Nugent.
Likely Preston lineup (4-4-2): Maxwell, Cunningham, Clarke, Huntington, Spurr; Barkhuizen, Pearson, Gallagher, McGeady; Robinson, Hugill.
Last time the sides met Derby were managed by Nigel Pearson and won for the first time under the new boss, turning out 1-0 victors. Of the last seven meetings between the two, Derby are unbeaten (winning five, drawing two), winning the five games in which they’ve scored. Preston’s away record is also on Derby’s side as the Lilywhites haven’t won any of their last five away from Deepdale (three draws, two losses), also, furthering that, they haven’t won at Pride Park since 2002 (five draws, four losses since then).
Prediction: Derby 2-1 Preston (Ince, Vydra & Clarke) – successive wins for the first time in all competitions since December.