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[FM19] Derby County - Director of Football Challenge

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Wednesday 26 December 2018

Pre-match v Sheffield United (a) - Championship (24)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: The January transfer window opens in a few days. Do you have any news for us?

Stuniverse: Not much really. Ashley Cole will be leaving us to join Ulsan Hyundai. I tried to be fair to all three left-backs in pre-season and the early part of the season and it worked out that Craig Forsyth and Scott Malone are ahead of Ashley right now. Ash wants to play, I understand that. He was a world class player for a long spell but he's 38 now and needs to be somewhere where he can play first team football. I got together with Igor and we agreed a move away would be the best thing for Ash at this stage of his career.

RamsFanzine: Talking of Igor, amid Norwich City speculation, will your Director of Football be here in January?

Stuniverse: I hope so, we've got a meeting arranged this weekend to go through our scouting reports and agree our recruitment plans for the window. Seriously, I've not been advised anything different about Igor and believe he's happy here. I enjoy working with him and, as far as I'm concerned, this is all speculation at the moment. Just speculation.

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RamsFanzine: You're unbeaten now in 11 Championship matches. Can you keep that run going at Bramall Lane?

Stuniverse: We hope so. Training has been good this week and we'll be approaching the match against the Blades the same way we have all the others. We're not stupid. We know runs like this have to end at some point, that's football, and we also know that when the run does end, we'll trust in what's worked for us so well this season, we'll analyse the match, as we always do, and then go again.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: Your captain is back on the bench today and, other than that, you've made only one change - Malone for Forsyth.

Stuniverse: Yes. I thought team did ok against Bristol City, in a tough game, and deserved to go again. Curtis Davies is still nursing a bruised shin and Fikayo Tomori did well last time out and deserves to keep the shirt. Other than Marcus Olsson (ACL) we're pretty much at full strength now with Florian Jozefzoon (ankle) and Louie Sibley (back) in contention again.

I thought Craig Forsyth had a very good match against Bristol City but when I praised him about that, well, let's just say the conversation didn't go as well as I'd expected so I've picked Scott Malone at left-back today.

Post-match: Sheffield United (1) 3-4 (2) Derby County

Stuniverse: That was a tough match for us and I'm relieved to have won it in the end. After being 2-0 up, we then found ourselves 3-2 down, but the players showed a tremendous amount of character to recover and go on to win 4-3.

We saw today what makes Sheffield United so good and why, in my opinion, they should be higher up the Championship than 17th. They have a unique way of playing which Chris Wilder started, and caretaker Derek Geary is continuing, and it makes them very difficult to play against. When they went 3-2 up in the second half they'd only had three shots, all on target, all goals. Billy Sharp we know about; give him time and space in the box, like we did, and he's lethal. But when a player like Mark Duffy hits a 30-yarder straight into the top corner, you simply have to hold your hands up and say, "Well played!"

RamsFanzine: You had to change it up to get back into the game, what was your thinking there?

Stuniverse: We needed goals. Plain and simple. We were 3-2 down and the game was drifting away from us. Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott had given us a two goal cushion but we'd let it slip. So I pushed Waggy further up, sent Tom Lawrence on wide left, and went 4-4-2 pushing the wing-backs on. It worked. Jack levelled it up at 3-3 and Tom scored the winner. 1,600 travelling Rams fans going home happy.

RamsFanzine: Wisdom limped off. Any news?

Stuniverse: It looks like a tight calf so, hopefully, only a few days out.

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RamsFanzine: You needed that win to keep your lead at the top with Leeds beating Blackburn 2-1 and 3rd placed Swansea beating 4th placed Aston Villa 1-0. You now have an 11 point gap to 4th place. Things are looking good.

Stuniverse: At this stage, I'm more interested in the gap to 3rd which is a healthy seven points. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There's 22 matches still to play and the Championship is so unpredictable, and anyone can beat anyone on their day, that we're not taking anything for granted. The only way we're going to see this through is by continuing to work hard on the training ground and applying that on the pitch in matches.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 29 December 2018

Pre-match v Norwich City (a) - Championship (25)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Swansea are home to Wigan and Leeds host Hull this evening. You've got to expect them both to win those home games, does that add to the pressure on you playing away to Norwich?

Stuniverse: No. Not really. We know Norwich will be tough opposition at Carrow Road. We've trained well, feel suitably prepared, and will do our best to get a result.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: You've made five changes from the team that won at Bramall Lane on Boxing Day.

Stuniverse: Yes. These matches come thick and fast over the festive period so using the squad is important. Andre Wisdom has a calf problem so Jayden Bogle comes in at right-back. We let three goals in against Sheffield United so I've picked Curtis Davies over the somewhat unfortunate Fikayo Tomori as I felt experience would be important and it meant Richard Keogh wouldn't have a young player on either side of him.

The other changes are more to keep things fresh. Mason Bennett for Harry Wilson, Bradley Johnson for Mason Mount, and Tom Lawrence for Andy King.

Post-match: Norwich City (0) 1-2 (2) Derby County

Stuniverse: I'm relieved more than anything to have won that match. Norwich City played very well and were a credit to their caretaker manager David Wright. I can' remember the last time someone peppered our goal as much as Norwich did and Scott Carson had to produce some fine saves to keep them out. Emi Buendia was outstanding down our left and Scott Malone worked so hard trying to contain him that Scott was out on his feet and I had to send Craig Forsyth on for the closing minutes.

RamsFanzine: Talk about a fast start though, could you have asked for anything better?

Stuniverse: No, you're right. It was a sensational start for us with Mason Bennett scoring after 12 seconds. I thought it was 15, so it must've taken me three seconds to realise he'd scored and check the clock. 12 seconds. Can you believe that? 12 seconds. Mason's been here that long that people forget he's only 22. Mason now holds two club records - he's the youngest ever Derby County goal scorer and now he's scored the quickest goal in a Rams match ever.

And then Mason scored another to give us a two goal cushion which, as it turned out, we needed. I was delighted for Mason. He's a Derby lad and he loves this club. He's had a career plagued by hamstring injuries so we're having to monitor him quite closely, but there's no doubting his talent as he showed today.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 1 January 2019

TRANSFER WINDOW OPENS

RamsFanzine: As the January transfer window opens rumours in the media have linked Derby County with Ruben Gabrielsen, Ellis Chapman, Stuart Dallas and Ben Woodman.

Derby County have already confirmed that Ashley Cole will be leaving the Rams to join Ulsan Hyundai and that Craig Bryson and Ikechi Anya are on the transfer list.

It is believed that club owner Mel Morris, Director of Football Igor Stimac, Managing Director Stephen Pearce, Head of Recruitment Joe McClaren, and manager Stuniverse have already met to discuss the club's transfer plans for this window.

With Stimac's name remaining high on the bookmakers list of favourites for the Norwich City manager's job, we'll have to wait and see whether Stimac will still be at Pride Park when the January transfer window closes.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 1 January 2019

DERBY COUNTY RELEASE TWO

RamsFanzine: Derby County have today announced the release of U23 players Henry Wise and Zaid Al Hussaini. Both players become free agents with immediate effect.

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LOANEES RETURN TO THE RAMS

RamsFanzine: Kellan Gordon has returned to Derby County following his loan with Lincoln City. Gordon made 14 appearances for the Imps, scoring one goal.

Alex Babos has also returned from his loan in Spain with Real Union. Babos failed to make a competitive appearance during his loan spell.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 1 January 2019

O'NEILL WANTS NORWICH CITY JOB

RamsFanzine: Former Norwich City player Martin O'Neill has publicly declared his interest in the managerial vacancy at Norwich City and is believed to have attended an interview.

Despite denying any interest, current Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa remains the favourite with the boomakers and Igor Stimac (Director of Football at Derby County) and Sam Allardyce (manager Crystal Palace) remain a close 2nd and 3rd in the latest betting odds.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Tuesday 1 January 2019

Pre-match v Middlesbrough (H) - Championship (26)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Congratulations on winning the Manager of the Month award for December.

Stuniverse: Thank you but, as always, the credit should go to my players. Let's just hope that curse you mentioned doesn't strike.

RamsFanzine: Your winning streak currently stands at six matches. After winning away at Sheffield United and Norwich City, that must give you confidence going into a home match against 9th placed Middlesbrough.

Stuniverse: I know it's a cliche but wining becomes a habit, just as losing does. But we're not stupid, we know this winning streak won't last forever. We've won the last six because of the hard work the players have put in on the training ground and the way they've adapted and taken that onto the pitch on match day. We continue to work hard in training and will do our best to get the result against Middlesbrough.

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Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: Four changes today, but the one that raises the most eyebrows is Bennett dropping to the bench after his two goal man of the match performance against Norwich.

Stuniverse: I can understand that but he's being replaced by Harry Wilson who's not only our second highest goal scorer this season but the Championship's second highest goal scorer. Mason Bennett was outstanding against Norwich, I agree, but he's still young and we have to be aware of his hamstrings and not overdo things with two tough matches in four days.

Scott Malone is exhausted after his exploits against Emi Buendia last time out so Craig Forsyth comes in. The other two changes are me using the squad - Mason Mount for Tom Huddlestone and Andre Wisdom for Jayden Bogle.

Post-match: Derby County (0) 2-4 (1) Middlesbrough

Stuniverse: I don't believe in that Manager of the Month curse but that was a disappointing performance and result. It felt like a fairly even match to me but Middlesbrough were a lot more clinical in front of goal than we were. We had our chances, but couldn't take them, and once they got ahead we were always chasing the game. We were 2-0 down when Craig Forsyth pulled one back and 3-1 down when Mason Bennett pulled another back. Overall there were too many players who were out of sorts today and we got what we deserved.

RamsFanzine: What do you put that down to?

Stuniverse: Look, it happens sometimes. The squad has put together an unbelievable run of impressive form that has seen us unbeaten in the Championship since the beginning of October. You're not always going to play at that level, particularly in the competitive Championship, and I think you have to give credit to Middlesbrough and Tony Pulis. They had a game plan, they executed it, and it worked for them. Fair play.

The important thing for us now is how we respond to this defeat.

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RamsFanzine:  Leeds United won 1-0 at Nottingham Forest to go level on points with you, but Swansea City lost 1-0 at Reading so you still have a seven point lead over 3rd.

Stuniverse: That's a small consolation then but we have to improve. We won't achieve what we want to achieve this season if we continue to play like we did today. We have to regroup, take stock, and go again.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 2 January 2019

COLE LEAVES DERBY COUNTY AND BRYSON LOOKS SET TO GO TO

RamsFanzine: As Derby County confirmed a few days ago, former England international Ashley Cole has left the Rams to join Ulsan Hyundai for an initial fee of £9.66K.

Craig Bryson looks set to be the next out of the door at Pride Park after Derby County's Director of Football accepted £250K bids from Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers.

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Game date: 5 January 2019

DRIVER FOR DERBY

RamsFanzine understand that Derby County Director of Football Igor Stimac has tabled a £33K bid for Luton Town U18 striker Tommy Driver.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 5 January 2019

Pre-match v Arsenal (H) - F.A. Cup 3rd Round

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Arsenal at home. It's not every day one of the Premier League's big six comes to Pride Park. How are you feeling?

Stuniverse: This is a massive match and represents a very difficult challenge for us. I'm looking forward to sharing the touchline with Unai Emery and seeing how my players fair against one of the best teams in the country. We're expecting a sell-out crowd of just over 32,900 with Arsenal bringing around 1,600 fans with them.

RamsFanzine: Last time we spoke about injuries you had a clean bill of health. Is that still the case?

Stuniverse: It probably was, last time, with the exception of long-term absentee Marcus Olsson (ACL). Max Bird came down with flu the other day and we had to send him home. So far, it appears to be an isolated case and nobody else is feeling under the weather. Aah-choo.

RamsFanzine: Bless you.

Stuniverse: Thank you.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: Four changes today, including something of a surprise start for Sibley. What's your thinking?

Stuniverse: First and foremost Mason Mount needed a rest and it made sense to rest him for a Cup match rather than a Championship one. Louie Sibley has impressed all of us in training and I've been wanting to reward him for a while. As a 17-year old, what better reward than a start against Arsenal.

I thought Jack Marriott and Harry Wilson both fell short of their high standards against Middlesbrough so they drop to the bench with Mason Bennett and Andy King coming back in, with Tom Lawrence moving to wide left and Martyn Waghorn leading the line.

Finally 18-year old Jayden Bogle gets his reward for a breakthrough season with a start at right-back with Andre Wisdom suffering a bit with his calf after the Middlesbrough match.

Post-match: Derby County (1) 3-5 (4) Arsenal

Stuniverse: I'm disappointed to have conceded five and gone out of the F.A. Cup but I have to remind myself that Unai Emery respected both us and the F.A. Cup by selecting a strong Arsenal team full of internationals. I respect him for that.

And apart from five minutes of madness at the end of the first-half, when we let in three goals, I thought we more than held our own against our more illustrious opponents. Mason Bennett gave us the lead. A mistake by Louie Sibley gifted them their equaliser from the penalty spot. Then came their three goals in five minutes just before the half-time whistle.

RamsFanzine: You changed things around at half-time and, effectively, won the second-half.

Stuniverse: Yes. We won the second-half 2-1. Craig Forsyth made two bad mistakes before the break that cost us a couple of goals so I brought on Scott Malone; ironically Scott then made a bad mistake for their fifth goal. I also brought on Jack Marriott for Bradley Johnson, not because Bradley had done anything wrong, but because it allowed us to switch to 4-2-3-1 and take the game to Arsenal.

We put them under pressure right from the restart and they had to clear one off the line and then Jack Marriott hit the post. Jack scored a phenomenal long-range effort to pull it back to 2-4 and then Mason Bennett scored his second goal of the game to make it 3-4 in added on time. Unfortunately, in chasing a last gasp equaliser, we left ourselves wide open at the back and Arsenal scored a fifth.

RamsFanzine: You must have been impressed with Mason Bennett today.

Stuniverse: Oh my, yes. Mason was magnificent today. He never stopped running, he scored two goals, and kept driving us forward. Mason showed exactly why we think so highly of him.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 7 January 2019

JOHNSON EXTENDS DERBY COUNTY CONTRACT

RamsFanzine: Derby County Director of Football Igor Stimac announced today that midfielder Bradley Johnson has signed a new contract keeping him at the club until the summer of 2021, with the club holding a one year extension option.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 9 January 2019

DERBY SIGN DRIVER

RamsFanzine: Derby County Director of Football Igor Stimac today announced the signing of 17-year old striker Tommy Driver from Luton Town for a fee of £33,000 that may eventually rise to £89,000 with add-ons. Driver has signed for the Rams until the summer of 2021 with options for a further one year extension.

In his press conference, Stimac confirmed that Driver was seen as one for the future and is expected to join up with the Derby County U23 squad.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 10 January 2019

BRYSON JOINS HUDDERSFIELD

Igor Stimac today confirmed the sale of Craig Bryson to Huddesfield Town for a fee of £300,000 that could eventually rise to £375,000.

RamsFanzine understand that vice-captain Richard Keogh was unhappy that Bryson was allowed to leave but, after being alerted to the potential issue by club captain Curtis Davies, Rams manager Stuniverse spoke to Keogh and put his mind at rest.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 11 January 2019

SUTTON LOAN BABOS

RamsFanzine: Igor Stimac has confirmed that Vanarama National League Sutton have taken 20-year old Rams attacking midfielder Alex Babos on loan until the end of the season.

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Game date: 11 January 2019

STIMAC CHASES MAK

RamsFanzine: Igor Stimac has today made an offer for Derby County to take Zenit's Robert Mak on loan until the end of the season.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 9 January 2019

NORWICH APPOINT MCCLAREN

RamsFanzine: Norwich City have announced the appointment of Steve McClaren as their new manager and will pay Q.P.R. £1.2M compensation.

McClaren's name went under the radar with Marcelo Bielsa (Leeds), Igor Stimac (Derby DoF), Sam Allardyce (Crystal Palace)  and Martin O'Neill being the bookmakers favourites.

From a Derby County perspective this is good news as Igor Stimac will continue in his role as Rams Director of Football. To be fair to Stimac, unlike Bielsa, Allardyce, and O'Neill, Stimac made no comments to the media at all so whether he had any interest in the Norwich manager's job, or whether it was pure media speculation, remains unknown.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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2 hours ago, Stuniverse said:

Game date: 5 January 2019

DRIVER FOR DERBY

RamsFanzine understand that Derby County Director of Football Igor Stimac has tabled a £33K bid for Luton Town U18 striker Tommy Driver.

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Your Director of Football certainly knows a good youth academy when he sees one! ;)

Just now, Stuniverse said:

Game date: 11 January 2019

STIMAC CHASES MAK

RamsFanzine: Igor Stimac has today made an offer for Derby County to take Zenit's Robert Mak on loan until the end of the season.

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He must be very good, when I've been in the lower leagues the DoF generally does nothing for the first 80% of the window then panics in the last few days! That Arsenal game certainly looked entertaining too.

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Posted (edited)

@coady, thanks for the comments. The second half of the Arsenal game was amazing, but the last five minutes of the first half were horrendous. At 1-4 down and going more attacking in the second half I could see the Gunners scoring 7 or 8; fortunately we ‘won’ the second half.

I have no idea how good (or not) Tommy Driver will be or, for that matter, what I’m going to do with him in the short term except have him play in the U23s.

This is the first time ever I’ve done a DoF Challenge so I have absolutely no idea what to expect... but that’s what’s making it so interesting!

Edited by Stuniverse

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My Director of Football Igor Stimac

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 12 January 2019

CHAMPIONSHIP GAME OF THE SEASON

Pre-match v Leeds United (a) - Championship (27)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: 2nd against 1st, with both of you on the same points, and Swansea in 3rd seven points back, Leeds v Derby has to be the Championship game of the season, yes?

Stuniverse: I would say so. Definitely. Whilst the winner won't be promoted to the Premier League today, whichever team emerges victorious will most definitely be in pole position. We're confident in our game plan and will be doing all we can to execute it successfully.

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RamsFanzine: At Pride Park, much earlier this season, you led 3-2 at half-time, only for Leeds to turn it around after the break to beat you 5-3. That, plus home advantage, must make them favourites this time out?

Stuniverse: That was our second game of the season, our first at home, and we had a lot of new players we were trying to integrate into a cohesive team. Leeds and Marcelo Bielsa will face a much improved Derby County this time.

RamsFanzine: Talking of Bielsa, he was very complimentary about you and your team in his press conference. What did you make of his comments?

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Stuniverse: I thought he was very magmanimous, complimentary, and spot on. In the build-up to a massive match for both teams, I thought it showed the measure of the man and win, lose, or draw I look forward to chatting to him after the match.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: You've made three changes today bringing back your big guns Marriott, Wilson and Mount.

Stuniverse: Well I wouldn't have put it quite like that but the three who return today are big players for us. Jack Marriott is our top goal scorer and comes in for Martyn Waghorn. Harry Wilson is our second highest goal scorer and he comes in and Tom Lawrence is unfortunate to miss out, but after his brace against Arsenal Mason Bennett has earnt the opportunity to go again in this top-of-the-table clash. Finally Mason Mount comes back in for young Louie Sibley.

Post-match: Leeds United (1) 3-4 (1) Derby County

Stuniverse: Pinch me, I think I'm dreaming. I'm so proud of the players today and our travelling 1,900 fans who stuck with us and loudly supported us today which was so important at times when the odds were against us during the match. Leeds were the better team, I'll readily admit that and I told Marcelo [Bielsa] that too, but when it came down to heart and desire to win the match, I thought we wanted it more than them.

For the first 35 minutes they battered us and we struggled to get out of our own half. Scott Carson made some great saves. Our defenders and midfielders blocked shots and then Liam Cooper powered a header into the back of the net and I knew if I didn't do something we'd end up losing 2 or 3-0. So I pushed Mason Mount further forward, changed to 4-2-3-1 and, unbelievably, within a couple of minutes Andy King seized on a mistake to rifle in his first goal of the season.

We got a bit of luck early in the second half when Alexander Milosevic passed back to his goalkeeper without looking, not realising Kiko Casilla was on the edge of his area, and scored an own goal. Three minutes later and Harry Wilson put us 3-1 up.

But Leeds are a very good team and they came right back at us. First Pablo Hernandez, and then Patrick Bamford, and bang all square at 3-3.

With all three subs made, Fikayo Tomori pulled ankle ligaments and couldn't continue, leaving us to play the last 11 minutes plus added on time with ten men. Leeds threw everything at us and it was pinball in our area at times... but this team is just amazing, despite being under the cosh, they looked to counter-attack whenever possible, and then right at the death, Tom Lawrence shoots, their goalkeeper parries it, and Jack Marriott drills in the rebound.

Cue our fantastic fans and "We're Derby County, we're top of the league!" rings out around Elland Road. That was something special.

RamsFanzine: How is Tomori?

Stuniverse: If it's pulled ankle ligaments, as we think it is, Fikayo Tomori will be out for at least three weeks.

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RamsFanzine: The win restores your three point lead over Leeds but, as if the day hadn't gone your way already, Preston beat Swansea 1-0 opening up a 10 point gap between you and 3rd place.

Stuniverse: It puts us in a fantastic position and leaves everything in our own hands. But we can't afford to get complacent. We have to continue to work hard in training, show the required level of desire and work rate in matches, and if we can do that consistently for the rest of the season, hopefully we'll achieve what we're aiming for.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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@Stuniverse The great season continues! Even though you didn't beat Arsenal you've came closer to beating them then I have in my save with Derby. Keep up the great work!

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5 hours ago, JaytheGreat said:

@Stuniverse The great season continues! Even though you didn't beat Arsenal you've came closer to beating them then I have in my save with Derby. Keep up the great work!

Thank you @JaytheGreat

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Game date: 12 January 2019

BIELSA UNHAPPY WITH POOR WORK ETHIC FROM LEEDS

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Game date: 13 January 2019

RamsFanzine: Igor Stimac announces that young Derby County winger / full-back Kellan Gordon has joined League Two Oldham Athletic on loan until the end of the season.

Gordon, who's Rams contract expires at the end of the season, spent the first half of the season on loan at League Two Lincoln City where he made 10 appearances, scored one goal, with an average rating of 6.86.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 16 January 2019

AMBROSE LEAVES DERBY

RamsFanzine: Igor Stimac has confirmed that defender Efe Ambrose has been released from his Derby County contract by mutual consent. Ambrose didn't play in the Championship for the Rams, but did make two Carabao Cup appearances with an average rating of 7.65. Ambrose, who's Rams contract runs out at the end of the season, was thought to be highly unlikely to qualify for a work permit renewal.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday January 19 2019

Pre-match v Reading (H) - Championship (28)

RamsFanzine: According to Bielsa [Leeds manager] you're lucky to be top and are only there because other teams are complacent and don't take you seriously. What did you make of his comments?

Stuniverse: Look, football's a passionate game and, as managers, we have to do these press interviews immediately after the match when frustrations and tempers can be running high. Sometimes we'll say things in the heat of the moment that we wouldn't say the next day after we've slept on it. Marcelo Bielsa was frustrated his team lost a very important match, one they probably deserved to win, and I get that. He knows you don't get where we are, where Leeds are, even where Swansea are after 27 matches through luck. I spoke to Marcelo after the match and there was no animosity at all.

RamsFanzine: Ambrose, Bryson and Cole have all left the building this window. Will there be any more departures and are you looking to bring anybody in?

Stuniverse: Well Igor's already signed Tommy Driver and he's working on other deals but finances are tight to stay within Financial Fair Play so it's more a case of whether Igor can make things work for us. Regarding outgoings I believe in being honest with players. Efe Ambrose wasn't going to get a work permit in the summer, and he wasn't playing here, so it was best we shook hands and allowed him to leave and look for his next club.

It was similar in some ways for Ashley Cole and Craig Bryson. Both were out of contract in the summer, not really playing for us here, and without a major injury crisis I couldn't see that changing. So you either string them along for half a season, knowing nothing's going to change, and making them even unhappier or you explain it like it is and let Igor see if he can do a deal for them to go somewhere else and play.

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Today you're at home to 15th placed Reading, Leeds are away to Stoke, and Swansea are home to Sheffield United. It's going to be another exciting afternoon of Championship football.

Stuniverse: We all know the Championship is a special league, arguably the most competitive in the world, and there's going to be plenty of twists and turns over the remaining 19 matches of the season. There's a lot of football still to play and a lot of hard work for me, my staff, and the players to put in.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: Only one change today and a surprising one. Keogh not in the 18.

Stuniverse: No, and that one was forced. Richard Keogh is ill. Max Bird is still recovering from flu, no 'bird flu' jokes please, and Richard started feeling unwell this week so we've sent him home until he's feeling better as we don't want it spreading. Fikayo Tomori is still out with pulled ankle ligaments so Semi Ajayi starts and Andre Wisdom provides cover on the bench. Our third choice goalkeeper Henrich Ravas has a calf problem. Marcus Olsson is on track in his recovery from an ACL but I'm not sure whether he'll be fit to play this season.

Post-match: Derby County (1) 5-2 (1) Reading

Stuniverse: I know it looks from the scoreline that we blew Reading away, but it was a lot closer than that and wasn't a 5-2 game at all really. For long periods Reading worked really hard, pushed us all the way, and made things extremely difficult for us. They were a credit to their manager Jose Gomes and the biggest compliment is that when they took the lead midway through the first-half it forced me to change things around.

There's so many things I love about this squad of players and one of them is how well the players respond to set-backs and adapt to tactical changes within a match. It took us just three minutes for Mason Mount to equalise and four minutes after the restart Harry Wilson gave us the lead and then added another to put us 3-1 up. We were unlucky for their second goal because the shot deflected in off two of our players, but we responded again with further goals from Jack Marriott and Bradley Johnson.

RamsFanzine: It's good news that Johnson's signed a new contract and the goal was a great way for him to celebrate it, wasn't it?

Stuniverse: Yes. Bradley Johnson struck it sweetly from outside the penalty area.

RamsFanzine: King went off injured. How is he?

Stuniverse: Andy King twisted his knee so, hopefully, it won't be anything serious.

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RamsFanzine: Even more good news for you as Leeds and Swansea both lost today.

Stuniverse: There's still a lot of matches to go but anything that stretches our lead at the top is a good thing.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 19 January 2019

MAK JOINS DERBY

RamsFanzine: Igor Stimac confirmed after today's 5-2 win over Reading that 27-year old Slovakian winger Robert Mak will be joining the Rams on loan until the end of the season. The loan deal with Russian Premier League side Zenit St. Petersburg includes a clause for Derby County to sign Mak permanently for a fee of £2.2M.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Tuesday 22 January 2019

Pre-match v Millwall (H) - Championship (29)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Millwall are bottom of the Championship and have drawn two and lost seven of their last nine league matches. With home advantage, this should be an easy win for you, shouldn't it?

Stuniverse: I think that's being disrespectful to Millwall and Neil Harris. We'll be taking this match very seriously, we've prepared as thoroughly as we always do, and we'll be trying to win the match. Millwall have an unfortunate injury list which is probably contributing to their bad run but I'm sure Neil will have the Lions fired up and they'll want to end their bad run against us. It won't be an easy match at all.

RamsFanzine: Swansea don't play until tomorrow night and Leeds don't have a midweek fixture so will have a game in hand on you after tonight. Does that add any additional pressure to your match tonight?

Stuniverse: No. Not really. We're in a great position at the moment where we have everything in our own hands. Right now, it only matters what we do.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: Eight changes today. Aren't you being disrespectful to Millwall?

Stuniverse: I can understand why you would say that but no, we're not. Absolutely not. This match comes on the heels of the Reading match, which followed the high intensity Leeds match. In training a lot of players looked sluggish so I'm utilising the squad tonight. That's why we have a squad. I'm not being disrespectful at all.

Richard Keogh is feeling better and replaces Curtis Davies. Also in are Scott Malone for Craig Forsyth, Andre Wisdom for Jayden Bogle, Tom Huddlestone for Bradley Johnson, Louie Sibley for Mason Mount, George Evans for the injured Andy King (knee), Tom Lawrence for Harry Wilson and Martyn Waghorn for Jack Marriott.

RamsFanzine: And even with eight changes, Mak, your new signing, doesn't start?

Stuniverse: No. Zenit didn't register Robert Mak so he's hardly played any football at all this season. We need to build his match fitness. I'm hoping the match unfolds in a way that allows me to give him some playing time tonight.

Post-match: Derby County (2) 3-0 (0) Millwall

Stuniverse: I'm very happy with the result and the way the team played tonight. Quite a few of the players selected tonight haven't played much football for us this season so to see them control the match and put in such a convincing performance made me immensely proud. I wanted to freshen things up, as most of the players left out were looking sluggish in training, and the players that came in gave us plenty of energy, work rate and commitment.

RamsFanzine: Two debutants and both on the scoresheet.

Stuniverse: Yes. George Evans has had to wait a long time due to injury and the form of others, but I thought he was outstanding and his pile driver from outside the D was a sensational way for us to take the lead. It was good to see Robert Mak out there on the pitch, as he's severely lacking match fitness, but that dribble into a crowded penalty area, to then find the space to shoot gave our fans a glimpse of what Igor sees in him.

RamsFanzine: The goalkeeper should have saved it though, shouldn't he?

Stuniverse: Probably. But let's not take anything away from Robert. I was delighted for him to score on his debut.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 31 January 2019

CHAMPIONSHIP TRANSFER WINDOW CLOSES

RamsFanzine: The January Transfer Window closed at 23.00 for English Football League teams, including the Championship, with Derby County doing no further business either in or out.

RamsFanzine understands Igor Stimac is still negotiating loans for some some of the Rams youngsters to go out on loan where the rules still allow for loan signings.

2019_january_window.thumb.png.8f4c02e8b4956aa5226e90485b6eb9f0.png

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Game date: 2 February 2019

RAMS DUO GO OUT ON LOAN

RamsFanzine: 18-year old French striker Yohan Greco has joined French National 2 - C side US Granville on loan until the end of the season.

Also going out on loan for the rest of the season is 18-year old attacker Morgan Whittaker who joins Vanarama National League North side Chorley.

Greco and Whittaker are both second-year scholars who will be out of contract at the end of the season. Derby County have not commented on which second-year scholars, if any, will be offered a professional contract.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 2 February 2019

Pre-match v Preston North End (a) - Championship (30)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: 2nd placed Leeds host 10th placed Norwich today, whilst 3rd placed Swansea go to Bristol City. With those fixtures in mind, what's your thoughts on your away game at 13th placed Preston?

Stuniverse: The other fixtures don't affect our thinking at all. Our hard work this season so far has put us in a situation where it's entirely in our own hands. We've been focussing on the Preston match and what we need to do. Nothing else.

RamsFanzine: It's been 11 days since you played Millwall, how has that affected your preparations?

Stuniverse: It's been good to have the break because it's allowed our players who were ill to get better and for all our injured players except for Marcus Olsson (ACL) to get themselves fit and back into contention. Robert Mak is still some way short of the fitness levels he needs to start, but he's getting there.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: You've made six changes today.

Stuniverse: Yes. Our captain Curtis Davies comes in for Semi Ajayi, Bradley Johnson for Tom Huddlestone, Mason Mount for Louie Sibley, Andy King for George Evans, Harry Wilson for Mason Bennett and Jack Marriott for Martyn Waghorn. 

Post-match: Preston North End (0) 1-0 (0) Derby County

Stuniverse: Obviously I'm disappointed to lose the match to the only goal in the 93rd minute but I can't really have too many complaints. I applaud Alex Neil and his players. Preston are the first team in the Championship to outplay us from first whistle to last. They played really well. Jack Marriott hit the crossbar in the second half but that was the only time we looked like scoring.

RamsFanzine: You changed your shape in the second half, what was your thinking there?

Stuniverse: Our usual 4-1-2-3 wasn't working, at least we weren't creating chances, so I thought if we went 4-2-3-1 like them, and matched up against them, we might be able to create more. We did look a bit better with Tom Lawrence and Robert Mak out wide, and Mason Mount down the middle, but we weren't good enough.

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RamsFanzine: Leeds beat Norwich and Preston drew with Bristol City.

Stuniverse: We lost. That's what I'm thinking about at the moment. There's still 16 matches to go and, although we're well placed at the moment, that won't be the case if we don't play a lot better than we did today.  We go back to the training ground and we work harder.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 3 February 2019

KNIGHT JOINS WHITTAKER AT CHORLEY

RamsFanzine: 18-year old midfielder Jason Knight has joined Vanarama National League North side Chorley on loan until the end of the season. Knight will find a familiar face at Chorley as his Rams U18 teammate Morgan Whittaker joined Chorley on loan a few days ago.

Knight and Whittaker are both second-year scholars who will be out of contract at the end of the season. Derby County have not commented on which second-year scholars, if any, will be offered a professional contract.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 4 February 2019

CHELMSFORD LOAN MACDONALD

RamsFanzine: 17-year old right-back Kornell MacDonald has joined Vanarama National League South side Chelmsford City on loan until the end of the season.

MacDonald is a second-year scholar who will be out of contract at the end of the season. Derby County have not commented on which second-year scholars, if any, will be offered a professional contract.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 9 February 2019

Pre-match v Hull City (H) - Championship (31)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Last time out against Preston you had a bad day at the office. Is it a good time then to be hosting 22nd placed Hull City?

Stuniverse: I don't think it matters too much who we're playing. It's about what we do and we need to improve on our showing against Preston.

RamsFanzine: How are the injuries looking?

Stuniverse: Marcus Olsson (ACL) is now running on grass after being out about nine months; it'll probably be another four weeks before he's back in full training. Andy King took a knock on his ankle against Preston and isn't quite ready.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: Four changes today.

Stuniverse: Yes. After the Preston game I could easily have made more changes, but we've played very well for the most part this season so I didn't want to overreact and mix things up too much. Changes at both full-back positions, Jayden Bogle for Andre Wisdom and Craig Forsyth for Scott Malone. George Evans is in for the injured Andy King and Martyn Waghorn replaces Tom Lawrence.

Post-match: Derby County (0) 1-0 (0) Hull City

Stuniverse: Phew! That was a relief. I was coming around to thinking a 0-0 draw might not be such a bad result when Jack Marriott stepped up in the 92nd minute to score the goal that won the match. Unlike the Preston match, we created a good number of chances, got the majority of them on target, only to find David Marshall in inspired form in their goal. It was beginning to look like we would never beat him today when Jack found a way through with his 28th goal of the season.

RamsFanzine: That's two games in a row now that were almost 0-0. Given the way you were scoring goals for fun, what do you put your current difficulties down to?

Stuniverse: I think it's too early to say we're having difficulties. We struggled to get much going against Preston and that was largely down to the way they set-out and stopped us playing. Not many teams have done that to us this season. Today was more about their goalkeeper being in sensational form. I'm not too worried at the moment but will be if it continues.

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RamsFanzine: Middlesbrough did you a big favour beating Leeds 2-1. Elsewhere, Swansea beat Millwall 1-0.

Stuniverse: We won. That's the main thing. We left it late, but we won. It doesn't matter what everybody else does, if we win, nobody closes the gap.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Wednesday 13 February 2019

Pre-match v Ipswich Town (a) - Championship (32)

RamsFanzine: Are you happy with your activity in the January transfer window and the players Stimac was able to bring in and out?

Stuniverse: Yes, I'm very happy. To be fair, I was happy with the squad going into the transfer window and I wouldn't have been that concerned if we'd done no business at all. Robert Mak is a good addition for the season. Tommy Driver has bags of potential. Igor managed to get three fringe players out of the club and some young players went out on loan to aid their development.

RamsFanzine: You have quite a lot of senior players out of contract at the end of the season, some here, and some out on loan. Johnson's had his contract extended but what can you tell us about the others?

Stuniverse: Well three have left - Ashley Cole, Craig Bryson and Efe Ambrose. At the moment we have a Plan A and a Plan B based on which division we'll be in next season and we don't know that yet. Igor knows my views on the players but, in his role as Director of Football ultimately it's his decision who he offers new contracts to and who he doesn't.

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Ipswich are 8th in the Championship and a win tonight could take them into the play-off places. They beat you 2-1 at Pride Park earlier in the season. Are you worried they could beat you again tonight?

Stuniverse: I think if you asked Paul Lambert [Ipswich manager] whether he'd rather be 8th or in our position he'd want to swap places. We played Ipswich early in the season, it was only our second home game, and the players were still getting used to each other and the way we wanted them to play. Every match in the Championship is difficult and, having won at our place, I'm sure Ipswich will be confident of getting a result. We've trained well but we need to be up for it tonight and do the things out there on the pitch we want to do. If we put in the desire, work rate and commitment we have for most of the season we're confident of getting a result.

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RamsFanzine: It's 2nd v 3rd tonight with Leeds playing Swansea. What's the best result for you?

Stuniverse: I don't like talking about other team's fixtures but, being purely selfish, a Leeds win would mean the 12 point cushion we have over 3rd place would be maintained and a result for us would increase it. But we have no say over what other teams do. It's in our hands and if we work hard and do our jobs then it shouldn't matter what anyone else does.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: It's not often I get to say this but you've picked an unchanged team tonight?

Stuniverse: Yes. The boys did well against Hull last time out. I did consider a couple of things but decided, on balance, to let the same 11 go again.

RamsFanzine: Is Mak still lacking match fitness?

Stuniverse: Robert Mak is pretty much where we need him to be; I did consider starting him tonight but opted to give him a bit more time. Andy King's knee isn't quite right, but he shouldn't be too much longer. Marcus Olsson (ACL) is back in training but still has a lot of work to do before he's ready for selection.

Post-match: Ipswich Town (2) 3-1 (1) Derby County

Stuniverse: Tonight was just one of those disappointing matches that happen sometimes. I don't think we played particularly badly, we created more than enough chances to win, had more than enough attempts on goal to win, but we weren't good enough, didn't get enough on target, and didn't work their goalkeeper enough. Ipswich were far more efficient and clinical in that respect and their second and third goals, from Youness Mokhtar and Alan Judge, were simply sensational. No goalkeeper in the world saves shots like that.

RamsFanzine: That's two defeats in your last three matches. Is the pressure of an automatic promotion push getting to the players?

Stuniverse: No. I don't think so. It was just one of those nights. Our captain Curtis Davies, who's been magnificent for us since returning from injury, both on and off the pitch, wasn't quite at it tonight. Curtis underhit a back pass to Scott Carson allowing Collin Quaner to run in and give them the lead. After that, Curtis didn't look himself and we seemed to rush things rather than sticking to what's worked for us this season.

George Evans got us level with another long distance thunderbolt but, other than that, we didn't reach our usual high standards in the final third. I changed things around to try and get us more creative up front but it didn't work and those two wonder strikes from Mokhtar and Judge knocked the stuffing out of us.

It's now about how we respond. We responded after losing to Preston by beating Hull. Now we have to respond again.

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RamsFazine: Leeds drew 0-0 with Swansea so both teams closed the gap by one point. It could've been worse, yes? 

Stuniverse: I guess that's something then but I'm far more concerned about what we do.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 16 February 2019

Pre-match v Wigan Athletic (H) - Championship (33)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: You're at home to 14th placed Wigan today, but your form lately has been inconsistent with two defeats in your last three matches. Can you get back on track today?

Stuniverse: That's the plan. We've worked hard on what's been going wrong and we're determined to get a positive result in front of our home fans.

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RamsFanzine: Meanwhile, Leeds travel to 16th placed QPR, and Swansea host 11th placed Brentford. Does that add to the pressure knowing that Leeds and Swansea will be favourites to win their matches?

Stuniverse: Look, the position we're in, with the points cushion we've got, means that we don't have to worry about what anybody else does. We've worked very hard to put ourselves in this position, where our destiny is very much in our own hands. If the players perform as I know they can, and do the job they need to do, we'll achieve the promotion we're all aiming for.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: You've made six changes today. Is that a sign of how unhappy you've been with recent performances?

Stuniverse: Unhappy is a bit strong. I've been disappointed with our recent defeats but, let's not forget, if they're honest, every other team in the Championship wishes they were in our position. But I have to be fair to the squad. I always tell the players who aren't in the team that nobody is guaranteed a shirt and they need to work hard in training and be ready to take the opportunity when it comes, as it will, either because the player with the shirt ahead of them gets injured or if performances drop. So I have to follow that through when individual and collective performances fall short of the high standards the players have set this season.

RamsFanzine: Can you talk us through the changes?

Stuniverse: Of course. Richard Keogh keeps his place in the back four, but Andre Wisdom's in for Jayden Bogle, Scott Malone for Craig Forsyth, and Fikayo Tomori for Curtis Davies.

RamsFanzine: You've dropped your captain?

Stuniverse: Curtis is on the bench. Yes. He had a poor game against Ipswich and nobody's guaranteed a start, not even our captain. Tom Huddlestone replaces Bradley Johnson, Tom Lawrence for  Mason Mount, and Robert Mak for Martyn Waghorn.

RamsFanzine: Bogle and Mount not even on the bench?

Stuniverse: That's right. They both looked very tired in training and we agreed a complete rest would do them good. Andy King's knee still isn't right either.

RamsFanzine: You're selection suggests a different formation. It's not your normal 4-1-2-3, is it?

Stuniverse: No, that's right. We're going 4-2-3-1. We thought we needed to change things around today, and not just with personnel.

Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: Saturday 16 February 2019

Post-match: Derby County (4) 6-0 (0) Wigan Athletic

RamsFanzine: You made six changes, you changed the system, and you won 6-0. Congratulations. You must be thrilled?

Stuniverse: I am. Thank you. But the credit should go to the players. They knew they were under the spotlight today, with a phenomenal crowd of 32,468 inside Pride Park, off the back of some poor performances, and they produced a performance like that. It was top quality from the first whistle to the last.

RamsFanzine: What do you put it down to?

Stuniverse: Hard work on the training ground. Maybe some freshness from the six new players coming in. The new shape of 4-2-3-1 matched us up man for man against them, which was more coincidental as their formation had nothing to do with the decision to change, and once we matched their work rate and commitment I thought our quality shone through.

RamsFanzine: A rare goal for Huddlestone?

Stuniverse: Yes [laughs] but didn't he take it well. I thought we controlled the game from start to finish and every player more than played their part. Jack Marriott got a superb hat-trick, taking his season tally to 31, and Tom Lawrence and Harry Wilson chipped in too.

RamsFanzine: What did you make of Mak's first start?

Stuniverse: I thought Robert did very well and has settled in brilliantly which isn't always easy when you move to a new country. Robert will be credited with two assists and only a great save by Christian Walton prevented him getting the goal his performance deserved.

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RamsFanzine: Anything you can do... Leeds put six past QPR and Swansea beat Brentford 2-0.

Stuniverse: It's a good job we won then.

RamsFanzine: And next up is a visit to your local rivals Nottingham Forest who's fortunes have improved significantly under new manager Carlos Carvalhal.

Stuniverse: Yes. After we beat them 3-0 at our place earlier in the season I imagine they'll be wanting to get their own back. It promises to be some match, but we'll be prepared and ready to go again.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 23 February 2019

Pre-match v Nottingham Forest (a) - Championship (34)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Results earlier today have seen Nottingham Forest drop into the relegation zone. With you having lost your last two away matches, that must give Forest confidence they can get the win and climb up to 20th.

Stuniverse: Carlos Carvalhal is a good manager and I'm sure his players will be up for this match. As a player, if you can't motivate yourself for the East Midlands derby you'll never motivate yourself. But we're confident as well. Yes we've lost the last two, but we've only lost three away matches all season and have won 10. Our performance last time out at home to Wigan was impressive and we're confident of retaining the Brian Clough Trophy.

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RamsFanzine: I'm sure you know Leeds United beat Bolton Wanderers 4-0 and Swansea City drew 0-0 at Sheffield Wednesday. Do those results put added pressure on you today?

Stuniverse: I wouldn't say so, no. This is the East Midlands derby and for Rams and Forest fans these are the most important matches of the season. The city has been buzzing all week and everybody keeps telling me that we have to win this one. So we'll be doing our best, I can promise the fans that, we want to win this one.

RamsFanzine: You have some good and injury news, I believe?

Stuniverse: Yes. Andy King (knee) is available for selection, but Louie Sibley is out with blisters and Semi Ajayi twisted an ankle in training. Mason Mount and Jayden Bogle are still being rested.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: You've kept an unchanged team.

Stuniverse: Yes. The players were fantastic against Wigan last week and they all deserve to keep their shirts. The only change is on the bench where Andy King replaces the injured Louie Sibley.

Post-match: Nottingham Forest (1) 1-1 (1) Derby County

Stuniverse: I thought we had the better of it today and, on another day, would have won the match. When their goalkeeper is named man-of-the-match that says it all really. To be fair, Costel Pantilimon made some excellent saves to keep us out and, when the goalkeeper didn't stop us, their defenders were throwing themselves into blocks. They defended very well. When Jack Marriott scored our equaliser just before the break, he had to beat three defenders in the area in his efforts to find room to get a shot in.

RamsFanzine: Could you have made a worse start?

Stuniverse: No. We weren't concentrating at the kick-off, for some reason, and Hilal Soudani took advantage to score after just 48 seconds. I was pleased with how we reacted though. Against Ipswich we lost our way somewhat when we went behind but there was no sign of that today. The players kept calm, kept doing the things we want them to do, and forced their way back into the match.

RamsFanzine: You picked up six yellow cards today, that should incur a fine from the EFL won't it?

Stuniverse: Probably. Yes. But I won't criticise my players for showing commitment and desire.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 26 February 2019

KARIC TO RETURN TO SLOVENIA

RamsFanzine understand that Slovenian First Division side Krsko have offered a contract to Derby County U23 player Sven Karic. 

Karic is out of contract at the end of the season and looks set to return home to Slovenia.

Director of Football Igor Stimac handles Rams contract negotiations but it now looks like Karic will not be offered a new deal.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 28 February 2019

ABERDEEN SET TO MAKE LOWE LOAN PERMANENT

Sky Sports News are reporting that Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes is keen to make Max Lowe's loan permanent in the summer.

Lowe, who is on loan from Derby County, has made 37 competitive appearances for Aberdeen this season,  scoring one goal, four assists, and an average rating of 7.00. His Derby County contract runs to 30 June 2021.

Nobody from Derby County was available to comment.

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Game date: 1 March 2019

DERBY COUNTY ANNOUNCE YOUTH INTAKE CANDIDATES

RamsFanzine: Derby County have announced details of the 16 youth intake candidates.

Director of Football Igor Stimac, assisted by Head of Youth Development Darren Wassall, will decide which players will be invited to be scholars in the Derby County Academy.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 2 March 2019

Pre-match v Aston Villa (a) - Championship (35)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Another tough match as you travel to 5th placed Aston Villa.

Stuniverse: Yes. We know Aston Villa have some very good players and they will be looking to close the gap on us. We know we have to be at, or close to, our best to get anything out of this match.

RamsFanzine: Elsewhere, Leeds (2nd) have a tough one at home to West Brom (4th) whilst Swansea (3rd) should have it somewhat easier against Bolton (21st). Would you agree?

Stuniverse: No match is easy in the Championship, as we've found ourselves over the last few weeks. There's pressure on every match whether you're challenging for promotion or fighting to avoid relegation. Playing a team near the bottom can be very difficult because they're fighting for their lives. We still have 12 matches to play, that's a lot of football still to be played.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: No changes today, for the second match running. Were you tempted though after only drawing with struggling Forest last time out?

Stuniverse: No changes. No. We changed our shape against Wigan and scored six. We kept things the same and drew at Forest, but I thought we played well and were denied by a man of the match goalkeeping performance. Villa are a very good team and I wanted to stay as we were and take another look at it.

RamsFanzine: Still no Mount or Bogle.

Stuniverse: Jayden Bogle and Mason Mount are both being rested. They're very young players and they needed a break, but I'm hopeful that both of them will be back in contention for the Sheffield Wednesday match. Marcus Olsson (ACL) is still out and Semi Ajayi has an ankle problem. 

Post-match: Aston Villa (1) 1-1 (1) Derby County

Stuniverse: I'll take that. Aston Villa are a very good team and I thought this was a very even match. Talk about small margins. Harry Wilson went close for us with two free-kicks in the first 10 minutes, then Conor Hourihane scores a free-kick for them on 13 minutes. I thought we responded well, in an end to end game, and deserved our equaliser through Jack Marriott.

RamsFanzine: You could've won it at the end, too.

Stuniverse: Yes. In added on time Martyn Waghorn headed wide but, to be fair, they had a good chance after that and Scott Carson made a magnificent save. I think a draw was a fair result.

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RamsFanzine: Leeds lost 2-0 at home to West Brom so you stretched your lead at the top to four points, but Swansea beat Bolton 2-0 to close the gap to third to nine points.

Stuniverse: Obviously it would be nice to go up as Champions but the gap we're really interested in is the one to third as we've got automatic promotion in our own hands right now. Nine points equates to three wins, with only 11 matches left to play so we remain in a good place, but we have to continue to work hard and maintain focus otherwise it could be a different story in a few weeks time.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 3 March 2019

STIMAC'S JOB AS DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL MADE HARDER!

RamsFanzine understand that the Derby County board, consisting of club owner and chairman Mel Morris and Managing Director (Finances) Stephen Pearce, have reduced the percentage of transfer revenue that can be retained by Igor Stimac to 20%. The decision is thought to have been made in light of the club's current finances, specifically the high wage bill.

This situation should change at the end of the season with a number of senior players out of contract in the summer but it definitely makes Stimac's job as Director of Football more difficult. The National media linked Stimac with the Norwich City and Middlesbrough manager vacancies earlier this season.

Of course, if the Rams can capitalise on their brilliant Championship season so far and secure promotion to the Premier League then the financial situation Derby County currently find themselves in would be significantly impoved.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 9 March 2019

Pre-match v Sheffield Wednesday (H) - Championship (36)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Norwich 9th did you a huge favour last night by beating Swansea (3rd), didn't they?

Stuniverse: Yes. That was a pleasant surprise. It means whatever happens today we're guaranteed a nine point gap to 3rd and, if we can win, as we'll be doing our best to do, we can stretch that to 12.

RamsFanzine: After two tough away matches, are you happy to be at home today against 20th placed Sheffield Wednesday?

Stuniverse: Playing at home means we're back into our familiar routine, which helps, but there's no easy matches at this stage of the season. Given our position in the league, there's a buzz around the city and that adds to the expectation of the fans. We need them to stick with us and be patient. I can understand their frustration at times but, what I didn't realise until I moved out of the stands as a fan into the dugout as a manager, is the affect the crowd can have on the players both positively an negatively.

RamsFanzine: Leeds (3rd) visit Bristol City (7th). How do you see that one going?

Stuniverse: I won't make any predictions but Ashton Gate is a difficult place to go to so we're obviously hoping Bristol City can do us a big favour.

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Team Selection

RamsFanzine: Three changes today.

Stuniverse: Yes, I've recalled our captain Curtis Davies for Fikayo Tomori and I've changed the midfield two - Bradley Johnson for Tom Huddlestone and Andy King for George Evans.

RamsFanzine: Plus a couple of tactical changes, I understand.

Stuniverse: [Laughs]. Yes, we had a couple of shall we say misunderstandings in the last two matches. Scott Carson thought I wanted him to play sweeper keeper which I didn't, because it doesn't suit him. So we've sorted that. On the left, Harry Wilson was playing inside forward when I wanted him to play winger. Hopefully there'll be no misunderstandings today.

Post-match: Derby County (1) 2-0 (0) Sheffield Wednesday

RamsFanzine: Congratulations. That's five home wins on the bounce now and you restricted the Owls to just three shots, none of which were on target. How does it feel?

Stuniverse: It feels great. We had just under 33,000 here today and we didn't have to worry about the crowd getting impatient because Andy King gave us the lead after about 12 minutes. After that I thought we controlled the game and never looked like conceding. Having said that, I never fully trust a 1-0 lead so it was a relief to get the late penalty which Martyn Waghorn tucked away.

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RamsFanzine: Leeds came from behind to beat Bristol City. You can't seem to shake them, can you?

Stuniverse: I wouldn't expect it to be easy. We're first and second for a reason. But we won too, so at least the gap hasn't closed any.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 11 March 2019

MALONE SET FOR SPELL OUT INJURED

RamsFanzine understands that Derby County left-back Scott Malone has damaged a knee cap in training and is likely to be out for four to five weeks.

Craig Forsyth is expected to replace Malone in starting line-up.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Wednesday 13 March 2019

Pre-match v Stoke City (H) - Championship (37)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: You've won your last five home matches ahead of Stoke's visit tonight. Can you make it six?

Stuniverse: I hope so but it won't be easy. We've trained well, are totally focussed, and we know what we need to do. If we play to the level I know we're capable of then yes we can win tonight.

RamsFanzine: Leeds piled the pressure on last night, winning 3-2 at Reading. They're now breathing down your neck a mere point behind you. Does that increase the pressure on you tonight?

Stuniverse: Not really. We still have to play Stoke and do the best we can. We can't control what other teams do. All we can do is focus on us and how we do.

Team Selection

RamsFanzine: You've lost Malone to a knee cap injury. Does that open the door for Forsyth or will you be looking more to Olsson?

Stuniverse: Yes, Scott Malone damaged his knee cap and will be out for a while. Marcus Olsson has been out a long time. He's back in training but we can only get about 45 minutes out of him right now. Craig Forsyth has played quite a bit for us this season and done well. He's the obvious choice to come in for Scott.

RamsFanzine: Two changes today.

Stuniverse: Yes. One's forced as we mentioned, Craig in for Scott at left-back. I've also brought Masson Mount back in for Robert Mak.

Post-match: Derby County (0) 1-0 (0) Derby County

Stuniverse: I'm very happy with how we played tonight. Stoke are a very good team, with Premier League players, and it took them until the 82nd minute before they had a shot. We played well and controlled the game for long periods. A full-house crowd were great and kept us going even though it would have been understandable if they'd got frustrated the longer the match stayed 0-0. Tom Lawrence gave us the lead after 54 minutes and, although I'd have liked more, one was enough.

RamsFanzine: Johnson picked up his 10th yellow card of the season.

Stuniverse: He did... and I think that's a two match suspension.

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RamsFanzine: You kept pace with Leeds who won last night, and West Brom and Swansea, who are level on points in 3rd, played out a 0-0 draw, giving you a whopping 14 point lead over 3rd with nine matches left. Surely it's only a matter of time before your promotion to the Premier League is confirmed?

Stuniverse: We're in a fantastic position but we can't afford to think like that. If we stop working hard, stop doing what we've been doing so well all season, that's when we'll fall away. We can't allow that to happen.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 16 March 2019

MASSIVE SIX POINTER IN PROMOTION RACE

Pre-match v Swansea City (a) - Championship (38)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: To say this is a massive away match for you is an understatement. Swansea are 3rd, 14 points behind you. If you win at The Liberty Stadium, that would give you a 17 point lead over Swansea with only eight matches left to play, effectively meaning they wouldn't realistically be able to catch you. Would you say a win today and you don't have to worry about the Swans any more?

Stuniverse: No. Even if we win today, and that's not going to be easy, Swansea can still mathematically overtake us. So, no, nothing will be decided today.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: You've made two changes today.

Stuniverse: One is forced with Tom Huddlestone coming in for the suspended Bradley Johnson. Mason Mount looked a bit jaded in training so Robert Mak comes in for him.

Post-match: Swansea City (0) 0-4 (1) Derby County

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RamsFanzine: Congratulations. Not only was that a huge win in such a massive match but it's also guaranteed your place in the play-offs.

Stuniverse: Thank you. Qualifying for the play-offs is a great achievement, and one I would have taken at the start of the season, but the position we're in right now our target has to be automatic promotion. Anything less will feel like failure.

I felt sorry for Mike van der Hoorn with his two own goals in such a big match for them, but we were already 2-0 up through great strikes from Jack Marriott and Robert Mak.

RamsFanzine: It came at a cost though with both full-backs going off injured. What's the news?

Stuniverse: Spookilly Andre Wisdom and Craig Forsyth both have the same freak injury - sprained wrist ligaments. We'll send them both to the Specialist and they should both be able to train and play with a cast. Fortunately the international break has come at a good time in that respect.

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RamsFanzine: Leeds kept pace with you beating Sheffield United 3-0. Aston Villa are now 3rd, 15 points behind you, after beating Middlesbrough 2-0. West Brom lost 1-0 at Brentford.

Stuniverse: It's looking good, I must admit, and you can sense our fans are expecting automatic promotion. It's up to us to make sure we deliver that promotion for them. This squad, this group of players, have worked incredibly hard this season and if we do get promoted to the Premier League the players will thoroughly deserve all the plaudits that will come their way. But nothing is guaranteed yet regarding automatic promotion. We still have a lot of hard work to do and if and when we get over the line, then we can celebrate, but not before.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Game date: 18 March 2019

PROMOTION FOR DERBY COUNTY JUST A MATTER OF TIME

RamsFanzine: As we enter the last international break of the 2018/19 Championship season, the league leaders Derby County are odds-on to secure their automatic promotion to the Premier League sooner rather than later.

With eight matches remaining the Rams have a four point lead over 2nd placed Leeds United, and a  15 point lead over 3rd placed Aston Villa.

On paper, Derby County's run-in doesn't look too difficult:

  • H Rotherham United (24th)
  • a Brentford (8th)
  • a Blackburn Rovers (11th)
  • H Bolton Wanderers (19th)
  • a Birmingham City (18th)
  • H Q.P.R. (17th)
  • a Bristol City (13th)
  • H W.B.A. (4th) 

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Game date: 23 March 2019

DERBY FACE GOALKEEPER INJURY SET-BACK

RamsFanzine understand that Derby County's goalkeeper Scott Carson is facing up to three weeks out after pulling knee ligaments in training. Carson has made 38 starts for the Rams this season, keeping 16 clean sheets.

Kelle Roos looks set to deputise. Roos has made five starts for Derby this season, keeping three clean sheets. U23 goalkeeper Henrich Ravas will be the back-up goalkeeper on the bench.

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Posted (edited)

Game date: Saturday 30 March 209

Pre-match v Rotherham United (H) - Championship (39)

Match Preview

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RamsFanzine: Top at home to bottom. You've won your last six home matches so this one's a foregone conclusion, isn't it?

Stuniverse: I think Paul Warne and his players would disagree with you there. Rotherham will still believe they can stay up so there'll be fighting and scrapping for every point they can get. I'm expecting a tough match but have confidence in my players to get the result.

RamsFanzine: Aston Villa (3rd) host Blackburn (8th) and Leeds (2nd) host Millwall (23rd) in this evening's match. How do you see them getting on?

Stuniverse: To be honest, our fate this season is in our own hands so I'm completely focussed on our match with Rotherham. I've not given the other fixtures any real thought.

Team Selection

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RamsFanzine: Just the one change today.

Stuniverse: Yes, an enforced one. Kelle Roos comes in for Scott Carson who has a knee injury. Andre Wisdom and Craig Forsyth play with wrist casts. Jayden Bogle is away with England U19s. Scott Malone (knee cap), Semi Ajayi (ankle), Marcus Olsson (ACL) and Tommy Driver (abdomen) still aren't available.

Post-match: Derby County (2) 2-1 (1) Rotherham United

RamsFanzine: Your seventh consecutive home win. You've certainly made Pride Park a fortress.

Stuniverse: Absolutely. Winning your home matches is the foundation for any successful campaign. Our fans have played their part as well. Another 31,000 plus crowd today and I can assure the fans that the players, coaching staff, and myself really appreciate their support.

I thought we were always comfortable in the game with a Harry Wilson brace giving us a 2-0 lead, but they pulled one back just before the break which made for a nervy second half. Although we defended well and Rotherham didn't look like scoring another, we couldn't add to our tally either and you just never know with a slender one goal lead. Rotherham didn't look like scoring in the first half either, but they did. I thought we deserved the win but Rotherham set their stall out and made it difficult for us, especially in the second half.

RamsFanzine: King went off injured and it looked nasty. How bad is it?

Stuniverse: It looks like Andy King has a hamstring strain which is difficult to predict - it could be 2-6 weeks. We'll have a better idea when he has a scan on Monday.

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RamsFanzine: Aston Villa beat Blackburn 2-0 and Leeds beat Millwall 3-0. So it's no change at the top.

Stuniverse: Agreed. The top four all won, but there's one less match to play - just seven now - and we're top with a good points cushion over third place.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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Posted (edited)

Game date: 31 March 2019

BENNETT EXTENDS RAMS CONTRACT

RamsFanzine: Derby County Director of Football, Igor Stimac, has announced that Mason Bennett has extended his contract by a year to the summer of 2021.

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Edited by Stuniverse

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