The Opposition View - Derby
1) What are your hopes and expectations for the season?
Hopes pre-season were probably for a mid-table finish but the season has been going well so far and if you get on a role in this league then who knows? Realistically I don`t think we`ll be fighting for promotion come May and despite an improvement in the squad it is still very thin on the ground in certain positions and if injuries kick in we may not be able to keep the good run going. We are still short of an experienced defensive midfielder and a big ugly striker but those additions along with the young hungry players in the current squad we wouldn`t be far away.
2) What are your strengths and weaknesses as a team?
The team as a whole is the strength at the moment with no real star names but everyone pulls together and the resilience we have lacked for a while now appears to be there in bucket loads at the moment. Whilst things are going well it`s always easy to pull together so the real test may come should we hit a dip in form. Defensively we are much improved in no small part down to the additions of Frank Fielding and Jason Shackell over the summer. Whilst the side work hard for each other we do lack a little creativity at times and when the work rate drops then we can struggle as shown at times this season when results have gome against us.
3) Who are the player/s to look out for?
Jamie Ward has been having a good season so far looking dangerous down the left or through the middle and he may get more of an opportunity up front with Steve Davies ruled out with a fractured skull. Jason Shackell has been a rock at the back and Ben Davies is vastly improved with his set piece deliveries looking dangerous and always a threat.
4) How is the popularity with your manager at the moment?
It looked to be a make or break season for Clough and things have been going well so far and with the news of his new contract it looks as though he will be given time to see through what he has started. There have been some tough times over the past two seasons and he looked to be losing the fans last year but our survival and the addition of a number of new faces over the summer appear to have given the side fresh impetus and things are looking up at the moment.
5) What would you put your change in fortunes down to?
Clough has more of the type of his players in the squad now and what we lack in individual quality at times is more than made up for in workrate and resilience when the game isn`t going our way. There have been a number of games already this season where last season`s side would have gone under but we have hung on in there to pull out a good run of results.
6) What's your prediction for the game?
Despite our decent start the season we don`t do well at the Madejski Stadium and with injuries starting to bite I`d take a point from this one to continue our start to the season.