Derby County Preview (A) - September 1
AFTER FOUR league and cup matches on the bounce in the home comforts of Vicarage Road, Watford are back on the road again this Saturday as they head to Pride Park, Derby.
It`s been a slow start to the campaign for the Rams who are still looking for their first three-point haul of the season after drawing against newcomers Sheffield Wednesday, losing to Bolton Wanderers and drawing at Wolves thanks to a 90th minute equaliser from ex-Horn, Theo Robinson.
Nigel Clough is rapidly heading towards a third year with the east Midlands outfit and has yet to truly make any great impact on the club in terms of a league finish. Fourteenth in his first season, 19th in his second and 12th last term, it`s been slow progress for the former Burton Albion manager but devout supporters will no doubt argue the toss, suggesting that this year will be about kicking on into the top half.
What will probably help in achieving that goal is that unlike each of the last two summer Transfer Windows, Clough has not overhauled the squad completely. Whilst there has been the expected smattering of business, only five players have arrived at Pride Park who will be expected to make an impact on the first-team.
In terms of departures only four senior professionals have departed, and of those four, only Jason Shackell and Steven Davies were regulars last season, with both adequately replaced already.
The most recent addition was that of former Wigan Athletic and Kilmarnock forward, Connor Sammon. The 25 year-old Dubliner spent a year and a half at the DW Stadium, scoring just once in 32 appearances from the Latics - predominantly from the bench to be fair. However, on his arrival at Derby Nigel Clough stated that he did not expect Sammon to score 25 or 30 goals a season, but to provide a number of assists for his new team mates.
Replacing former club captain Shackell was ex-Coventry, Bristol City and Carlisle United centre-half, Richard Keogh. Signed for the Sky Blues by former Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd two summers ago, Keogh established himself as one of the Championship`s most consistent performers at centre-half and Clough has no hesitation in splashing a seven-figure fee on 26 year-old defender.
Another man to have felt the direct influence of Boothroyd is former Northampton Town winger, Michael Jacobs. The 20 year-old left Sixfields this summer for an undisclosed fee after a three-year association with the club. Believed to be a one-time target of Watford under Sean Dyche, Jacobs is a left-winger by trade.
The Rothwell-born winger made his Rams` debut in the 5-5 draw with Scunthorpe United in the first round of the Capital One Cup, a match which Clough`s side lost on penalties, assisting all five of the Championships side`s goals before bagging his penalty in a thrilling 7-6 shootout loss.
Derby have a couple of injury concerns with Shaun Barker out for the whole season following a dislocated knee cap, whilst both Mark O`Brien and James Bailey could return for the Watford game as both are predicted to return by the end of the month.
Gianfranco Zola still has injury and fitness concerns of his own with Alex Geijo not expected to be fit enough to feature until after the international break.
John Eustace and Prince Buaben have back and hamstring problems respectively whilst Stephen McGinn and Fitz Hall is still both building fitness after pre-season knocks.
Finally Geoffrey Mujangi Bia felt his groin during the Bradford City defeat & will miss the clash.
Derby County: Fielding; Brayford, Keogh, O'Connor, Roberts; Coutts, Hendrick, Bryson, Hughes; Ward & Sammon.
Watford: Almunia; Hodson, Nosworthy, Taylor, Pudil; Yeates, Hogg, Abdi; Murray, Iwelumo & Vydra.
Referee: Mr P Tierney.