Behind Enemy Lines: Derby County

MILLWALL will be looking for their first win at Pride Park since 2014 when they face Derby on Wednesday night.

Steve Morison scored the winner in that match, and will be hoping to do so again as the Lions look to pull away from the relegation zone.

The Rams are currently seventh in the table, but they do have at least one game in hand on five of the six teams above them.

Millwall were 2-1 winners in August in the reverse fixture at The Den.

Lucas Ball spoke to Sam Lawe this week.

Twitter: @SamLawe

Why do you support Derby?

Being from Nottingham myself, and living within about five miles of Forest my entire life, I’ve had to answer that a lot!

My dad was my main influence over who I supported, but my entire family was actually from Derby, so it was drilled into me that way.

I started going to games from about the age of six, but I was definitively hooked during the 2006-07 season under Billy Davies, when I was nine, and we got promoted.

I went to about 12 home games that season, and to Wembley. From then on I was stuck.

What’s been your favourite season following the Rams?

I think most Derby fans under the age of 25 would say 2013-14, despite the awful way it ended.

The football we played was fantastic, it was a young, fast and exciting team who clearly cared about the club, and I think we were a lot of neutrals’ favourites, especially in the play-off final where we lost to QPR.

That was a really fun season.

And the worst?

2007-08. 11 points. One win. The less said about that the better.

Frank Lampard has proved to be an excellent appointment – what did you make of it when he first took over?

I was mildly optimistic, given he was always an intelligent player, although also worried that it would be a disaster.

But as he started to make signings, especially young ones, I think everyone felt a lot more encouraged that he was trying to do the right thing, getting in players who could play football and who had a lot of goals in them.

I think around 75 per cent of league goals for Derby this season have come from his signings. He’s definitely brought a feeling of excitement back.

The addition of Ashley Cole in January looks to be a useful one too – how important have Lampard’s wider links within the game been?

Ashley Cole definitely looks like a good signing, and the latest example of Lampard’s connections and influence paying dividends.

I think it’s fair to say that Mason Mount, Harry Wilson, Fikayo Tomori, Martyn Waghorn, Jack Marriott and Duane Holmes all came to us at least partly due to his influence, and all have been great at points this season.

He clearly wants to build a team in his own style, and has the ability to do that thanks to his standing in the game.

What are your expectations for the rest of this season?

If we win our games in hand, then it looks as though the top seven is pretty well set, given we’d be between seven and 10 points clear of eighth. After that, it’ll be a bit of a shootout between us and Bristol City for the last play-off place, and I don’t think I can call it.

Or we do a typical Derby, win two more games all season and bottle it as we always do. I guess you can say that’s expected!

In the summer, where would you like to see the squad added to?

I think we desperately need a centre-back or two. We have four on the books, one of whom is a loanee and another on a short-term deal until the summer, with Curtis Davies being out until the end of the season.

We also need more bodies in central midfield, with a lot of players in there not performing, and most of the ones that are being loans. It’s probably the one area that Lampard hasn’t got the balance quite right.

Which of Derby’s players will the Lions need to pay most attention to?

Harry Wilson can pull something out of nothing, so I think any team should be nervous of him. His left foot is almost undeniably the best at this level.

Martyn Waghorn has also hit a bit of form, and is getting consistent game time for perhaps the first time this season. He’ll be looking to keep that going I’m sure.

Likewise, which Millwall players are you worried about facing?

Derby can never cope with balls into the box at set-pieces, so Jake Cooper is definitely a worry from what I’m aware of. Especially after scoring against us once this season.

What are your thoughts on Neil Harris?

He’s done a brilliant job with the resources he’s been given, and is clearly the right man for the job.

It says a lot about the clear love for him that despite your league position I haven’t heard many grumbles, and his FA Cup record is remarkable.

I think he’s a very astute manager, and I find him quite a likeable person.

If you could sign one of his players, who would it be and why?

Again, probably Jake Cooper. Given we definitely need a centre-half, he would be a player I could see us using well. And he’s still pretty young. I think he could be a quality player in the long term.

What’s your predicted Rams starting XI and formation?

We’ll most likely stick with a 4-3-3, and I think Florian Jozefzoon and Cole will get starts after good performances against Brighton.

Roos; Bogle, Keogh, Tomori, Cole; Huddlestone, Wilson, Bryson; Jozefzoon, Waghorn, Holmes.

Will you be at the game on Wednesday night?

Unfortunately I won’t be, work commitments put me too far away. It’ll be a Sky occasion for me.

Finally, what’s your score prediction?

I’m going to be optimistic and say a 2-1 win for Derby, but I think it’ll be a hard-fought game.

Graphic: @ShedCreative