AFTER a fabulous four winners from four Football League fancies on Tuesday, can Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) continue his fine form with Wednesday’s night clash between Derby and Blackburn?
Derby v Blackburn | Wednesday 19.45
Three goals in the final 10 minutes at Brentford on Saturday delivered Derby’s first win since Boxing Day to reignite their Premier League promotion challenge.
The Rams arrived in the capital on the back of an eight-game winless streak (W0-D4-L4) that coincided with Paul Clement’s sacking. And after falling behind to Alan Judge’s strike just after half-time, an inspired performance from Bees keeper David Button threatened to extend their barren run of results.
But former academy coach Darren Wassall, who’s been handed the management reigns until the end of the season, unloaded his bench with substitutes Chris Martin, Nick Blackman and Tom Ince playing a pivotal role in the late come-from-behind triumph at Griffin Park.
It was a commanding, committed and aggressive display from Derby, the like we haven’t see for quite some time. It’s been another rollercoaster ride for Rams fans but the more attack-minded approach employed by Wassall appeared to appease the away supporters. More of the same, they demand.
Having spent an eye-watering £25m on reinforcing an already strong squad, the Derby directors demand aesthetically-pleasing, attacking football. They were given their wish on Saturday and Wassall admitted post-match he was chuffed with their ‘scintillating’ efforts.
So naturally, we should be piling into 10/11 quotes on Wednesday night when Blackburn arrive, right? Well, I’m finding it hard to pull the trigger on a home triumph and I’ll tell you for why…
One swallow doesn’t make a summer and I need more evidence than 90 minutes at a ragged Brentford to believe the ghouls in Derby’s closet have vanished so soon. Particularly at their iPro Stadium home, the Rams have struggled to turn their dominance into results and Blackburn fit the description of a party pooper.
In the past six weeks, four clubs have come with a mind-set to sit, soak up and frustrate their big-spending hosts and it’s a plan that’s worked. Birmingham and MK Dons have both left with three points whilst Reading and Preston held Derby to draws. Rovers have seen the blueprint and Paul Lambert will relish putting his own twist on proceedings.
The Rams have managed just W7-D6-L3 in front of their expectant home support this season – a win percentage of 44% – as they’ve scored fewer than two goals on nine (56%) occasions. Since the start of last season they’ve picked up 19/39 (49%) victories and although they've beaten six of their most recent eight bottom-six visitors by at least two goals, they’ve also fired blanks in their last three iPro outings.
Both win records mentioned above are below the 50% mark (even-money line) but the odds of 10/11 on offer for a home success looks far less appealing when chucking Blackburn’s record and results into the picture.
Rovers have W3-D6-L6 on their Championship travels this term – a loss rate of 40% – with their W9-D16-L13 efforts on the road since the start of last season seeing the Lancashire outfit beaten in only 34% of their fixtures outside Ewood Park – that’s decent.
A lot of noise will be made about Blackburn’s 5-1 FA Cup capitulation to West Ham on Sunday but Lambert made five changes for that contest with their league taking games taking priority. And it’s easily forgotten that Rovers took a weekend lead and put the Hammers under plenty of pressure before Chris Taylor’s red card handed the Londoners the initiative.
Supporters were looking forward to the cup clash but Rovers face eight Championship games in the space of the next 24 days and Lambert clearly believed he needed to refresh his squad as they bid to pull further than the current eight points away from the relegation zone.
Only a few days before that West Ham meeting, Blackburn had put in their best display of the season when dispatching Fulham 3-0 on home soil and the Scottish boss is ready to recall his leading lights this midweek. Grant Hanley, Tommy Spurr, Corry Evans, Jordi Gomez, Danny Graham and Matt Grimes should expect to feature here.
Rovers’ recent road run (W0-D2-L3) won’t fill underdog backers with confidence but their organisational abilities and solid foundations can. Only Hull and Reading have faced fewer shots-on-target in the second tier and Blackburn’s shots-on-target ratio figure of 56% – their share of the total shots-on-target – is only bettered by the aforementioned duo too – yes, it’s better than Derby’s.
I’d expect the Rams to come out all guns blazing, eager to attack the perceived mental weakness that might be lingering around the Rovers camp following a heavy defeat. But should Lambert’s men survive the early onslaught, they can grind out a result at the iPro with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start at 41/40 (Bet365).
Going purely on this season’s respective home/away records, this bet should be 7/10 with the hosts chalked up as 11/8 shots – Derby have won just 44% of their iPro outings whilst Blackburn have lost just 40% of their away days. That gives Rovers a 58% chance of avoiding defeat.
And heading back to the beginning of 2014/15, Derby have won 49% of their home fixtures with Blackburn losing 34% of their road trips – that implies a 58.5% chance of the visitors picking up at leas a point, bang in line with our previous paragraph. Throw in the visitors’ admirable shots-on-target data and you have to say the value isn’t really with the Rams.
Derby v Blackburn – Blackburn +0.50 Asian Handicap (41/40 Bet365)
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