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Friday, 4th August 2017 Kick-off 19:45
D.J's Match Preview: Darren's Derby Will Find Form & Defeat Dons
Saturday, 13th Feb 2016 06:15 by Daniel J Sewart
Darren Wassall gets his chance to stamp his ideas on the Rams first team as they take on MK Dons in front of what will be a tentative home crowd who really won’t know what to expect at the iPro this afternoon.
In some ways Darren and the players may have wished that their first hit out, since the departure of Paul Clement, was an away game. This would have definitely lowered the pressure a little bit, especially if things don’t go well early.
Instead it’s in front of the Rams faithful who I am sure will be wishing Mr. Wassall every success and hope he can exceed expectations, turn the ship around and lift DCFC back closer to the top two or at very least retain a playoff spot.
The new head coach has been doing great things with the youth team, scoring impressive victories against top flight opposition, which shows that despite it not being first team management, he has to have good coaching ability to consistently match or defeat more fancied opposition.
Rams fans will be hoping Wassall can bring some of the energy and attacking power back to the line-up which really should be easier to achieve than recent results may suggest. If things behind the scenes were not so rosy with players unhappy with selections, being played out of position or any number of issues that have been floated of late, then the change of style and freeing up of players may result in a sharp upward swing.
With the quality of players on the books – there is no reason that this team could not recapture form quite quickly and begin to play the football we know they can – especially if the shackles (not Jason) have been removed.
In saying this, things could go from bad to worse if things start to go wrong and the team goes behind. In the same way a resounding win (or any win) would do everyone the world of good, a defeat of any kind will turn the pressure up on everyone and the days post such a loss, could make what has been a messy week look clean in comparison.
It is hard to know which way Wassall will go with team selection but I really expect to see players being returned to their preferred positions. I would like to see a 4 - 1 - 3 - 2 with Thorne (or Hanson if George is injured) playing behind a 3 man midfield and Blackman playing in his preferred striker role next to Martin. Bryson, Hendrick & Butterfield may get the nod as I expect the team will want an all action display, with these 3 players currently the most likely to produce it.
If the Rams instead run with their more traditional set up, using Martin as the lone striker, then I think Russell, Ince, Bryson, Hendrick & Thorne (or Hanson) will start.
The back four may remain the same but personally I would like to see Warnock restored on the left as he has been really good this season and does not deserve to be dropped long term for Olsson based on what we saw at Fulham. In my humble opinion Warnock’s experience and desperation are worth their weight – especially in matches like this where pressure will be found in every kick and tackle.
Hopefully Keogh does not find the return of the Captains armband weighs him down – but one gets the feeling that appointment was made as a statement – and despite everyone saying Shackell should have it - perhaps Keogh was the one player who really wanted it. If that is the case, wear it with the pride it should be Richard!
Johnson, Bent, Weimann, Russell, Ince, Camara & hopefully Buxton, will once again all be in the mix and I fully expect to see more of them all in the coming weeks as the new manager challenges them to make him pick them. Hopefully that alone will be enough to bring performances up a notch and keep those on the pitch looking over their shoulders now that everyone hopefully has been afforded a clean slate
The Rams opponents for this crucial match, MK Dons, have had a poor season to date and only sit 3 points outside of the relegation zone – so any type of results other than losing is integral for them to get clear of danger. As they showed against Boro on Tuesday night – if they are taken lightly they are capable of stealing points. To meet a Derby team down on confidence and in a transitional period – should give them extra incentive to go at their hosts hard and fast early.
The Rams have close to a fully fit squad to choose from for the match but for MK Dons Carl Baker (ankle) and Ben Reeves (thigh) will miss while strikers Nicky Maynard and Rob Hall will be hoping for a recall after subs for the draw with Middlesbrough.
I get the feeling there will be a response from the Rams – the type that often comes after a change at the top. As long as Wassall has dealt with some of the animosity that may have been building in the squad, then the Rams will hopefully feel refreshed and released of recent stresses.
If MK Dons score early, as they did at Boro mid-week, then mentally the team may suffer, especially if the crowd does the wrong thing and get on their backs. This is one match where the team will need the crowd behind them more than ever or the consequences may be far reaching.
I doubt Derby will come away with anything less than a draw but without knowing what has been happening behind the scenes, the great unknown lies beyond the first whistle.
For me, I am confident of a Derby victory and expect a 3-1 result with Martin to get back on track, Blackman to open his Rams account and Bryson to give the home fans reason to once again sing his name.
Last Time They Met:
MK Dons 1 v 3 Derby
Stadium MK - 26th September 2016
Derby 4 v 0 Wimbledon
Pride Park - 4th March 2000
Gaffer Pre-Match Preview:
Darren Wassall talks about the challenge ahead for him in his new role.
Returned Rams Captain Richard Keogh wants a return to winning ways.
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