Derby v West Brom | Sunday 5th May, 12:30 | Sky Sports
Derby are very much in the driving seat to secure the final Championship play-off position going into the last match of the regular season. A win would earn them a shot at making the Premier League, and a likely two-legged tie over ‘spygate’ friends Leeds.
That is anything but a gimme however against a West Brom team who, whilst are already confirmed in the lottery, will see this as a chance as a major confidence booster. The reality though is that this is a more important game for Derby, and James Shan will surely hold some consideration to potentially resting a player or two, as he has done in recent matches already.
Destiny in Derby's hands
Frank Lampard shall certainly set up his side to win the game. It would be madness to do otherwise. They will approach this with the mentality that Middlesbrough will win away at already relegated Rotherham, and Bristol City to defeat mid-table Hull City; both of which are entirely possible in their own right.
Derby most certainly have the toughest fixture of the trio, although they did heavily beat West Brom 4-1 at The Hawthorns back in October. This was when The Baggies were under the management of Darren Moore.
Beating Bristol City 2-0 away from home last weekend saw many then really believe that Derby would earn that final play-off space. However, Derby have since drew in midweek to Swansea, whilst Bristol City came from behind to beat Millwall to open matters up against somewhat. An away draw at Swansea however is no bad result, and it keeps matters firmly in their own destiny.
The Rams have lost just once in their previous 11, but five have frustratingly ended in draws. Millwall however are the only side to beat them at home since November.
Baggies recent away-day woes
Some encouragement for Derby will certainly be some away day struggles for West Brom in recent times. They’ve won just one of their last five away, losing three and also failing to score in three of those. That included a heavy setback to Leeds, which proved to be Moore’s penultimate encounter in the dugout.
Under Shan, they’ve a record of W6-D1-L2. Both of those losses were away from home. For all that Moore seemingly had his critics, he did oversee excellent away form.
Rams vulnerable favourites?
Derby are indeed deemed the favourites for this clash. This isn’t too surprisingly given their need for a result. They are odds-on in many places, but if this were a standard middle of the season game, there is no way that would be the case.
Derby as a club over the years have tended to make heavy weather of such occasions towards the end of Championship seasons. This is a new era however under Lampard, and he’ll be aiming to write some positive history of his own. The average age of Derby’s starting XI across the season is just over 25.
Experience is often key on occasions such as this, so it is a big worry that Richard Keogh is an injury concern prior to this. His participation is anything but certain after limping off versus Swansea on Wednesday.
A lot of this ultimately depends on how West Brom approach this. They will finish the campaign in fourth place baring something quite incredible. Of course they will be professional. A play-off spot has been realistically sealed for a little while now anyway, and their form remains strong.
I do fear a little for Derby here. That is unless they open the scoring. Even then, 1-0 is always a dangerous score. Results from the New York Stadium and KCOM Stadium will no doubt filter in.
The players aren’t stupid, they’ll be aware if something happens based on the crowd and atmosphere. If Middlesbrough score early, could this young Derby side buckle to a degree? We can’t rule any of this out, especially in this uniquely crazy division.
We cannot simply discount West Brom in this one, even if Derby will want to start strongly. I’m banking on them not scoring in this period, as I like the look of 0-0 Half Time Score at 63/25 (Marathon). 0-0 has been Derby’s most popular half time home score this season (8), whilst the same has occurred the most in West Brom’s away encounters too (7).
However, I can’t see this ending goalless. Derby would probably throw the kitchen sink in the second half if they have to. West Brom would happily play on the counter attack, almost as like a trial run for the play-offs themselves. 28/25 (Marathon) is available for the Second-Half to be the Highest-Scoring Half. West Brom have scored 64% and conceded 58% of their goals in the second 45 of Championship matches this season.
A final selection is Under 2.5 Goals at 5/4 (888). We do have to treat this game separate to how it would occur if it was played at any other point of the season. The reality is that there is no second chances to put things right in Derby’s case, should they indeed fall short on Sunday.
Derby’s last three has contained exactly two goals on each occasion, which is no coincidence now we’re approaching the defining period of the campaign. West Brom’s clashes has been more open, with their matches containing less pressure given their respective situation. They’ll get caught up in this one however, in a game which is ultimately all about Derby.