Duffers' Derby County Diaries: More at stake than just local pride in Nottingham Forest clash
There's no doubt about it, Monday's East Midlands Derby at Pride Park is set to be one of the most intriguing of its kind for some time.
Both sides are currently looking strong in the promotion battle and, aside from the odd iffy result here and there, have shown few signs that they won’t be up there challenging for at least a play-off spot in May.
Recruitment has been impressive at both ends of the A52 and although Forest have made far more signings under Aitor Karanka, it hasn’t affected them too badly once they got over a jittery start.
Derby haven’t set the world alight in recent weeks and the wins over Sheffield Wednesday, Swansea and Wigan were ground out rather than achieved with much flair, not that it matters how they come.
Forest lost at home to Preston on Saturday to be dumped out of the top six but they are only three points behind Derby and would overtake them if they win on Monday - itself a motivating factor for both teams and their fans.
I’ve not been able to cover the last couple of Derby games so my last outing in that sense was at Stoke, which was a frustrating night all round.
They’ve since won both games they’ve played though and, as mentioned, although not perhaps in the convincing style with which they’ve dispatched some sides this year, anyone in white and black will take a scrappy win against Forest if that’s what’s needed.
The result of this game could provide a huge psychological boost or blow depending on who wins or loses it - a draw perhaps not doing either side many favours but if it comes, Forest may be the happier.
Winning a big local derby just before the start of the congested festive period will be a huge morale boost so it can’t be underestimated how important it is for each side.
Upcoming games for Derby include Bristol City before Christmas and then big away trips to Sheffield United and Norwich and a home game with Middlesbrough after it, so momentum will be key going into that run. It’s a similar run of games agains the top sides that Lampard’s men faced a few weeks ago and from which they emerged with plenty of points in their pockets, but the joy taken from having done so will be negated somewhat if they have the same sides take points back over the next couple of weeks.
So all in all it’s not just about local pride, next Monday. This encounter could have a massive bearing on the promotion race over the next month or so and beyond, so the temperature will be raised that bit more come 7.45pm on Monday night.