THE first weekend in January brings with it a break from the Championship and a first chance for the Rams to take a crack at the FA Cup this season, writes Gareth Davis.
But with an encounter against Tranmere Rovers, it’s fair to say that Derby cannot afford to even slightly take their eyes off the ball.
Tranmere are the leaders of League One and have been enjoying an excellent season so will no doubt prove to be a tough test.
For them it is a no-lose occasion – go out at Pride Park and they will be expected to, go through and they will have overturned the odds to get a result.
Even a draw would not be the worst outcome in the world for them as it would mean they would be welcoming Championship opposition to Prenton Park for a replay.
For Derby, as Nigel Clough stated after the New Year’s Day victory over Middlesbrough, it is a chance to do what they want to do right now – keep winning.
A victory was very much required after Derby’s other Christmas results, which had realised just a solitary point from three matches albeit with performances warranting more.
And it’s certainly fair to say that the performance against Middlesbrough was deserving of the win. OK, so the visitors weren’t great and they also had a few players out, but you still have to put them away and that’s exactly what Derby did.
On Sunday I moaned to my mate that Derby never score goals like Charlton’s Danny Haynes did against the Rams at The Valley 24 hours previously, so perhaps the most enjoyable element to the Middlesbrough win was Jeff Hendrick’s stunning goal that made it 2-0.
So now to Tranmere, and a side who are on the other side of one of the most bizarre records in Derby’s recent history.
Their last meeting saw Paul Simpson net three goals for Jim Smith’s side, the last time any Derby player scored a hat-trick in a league match – all the way back in April 1996, pushing 17 years ago!
This week’s possibly-forgotten blast from the past is Gary Caldwell, now a mainstay in Wigan Athletic’s Premier League defence who had a loan spell with Derby from Newcastle United in 2003/04.