Burnley against Derby. That used to be a fixture to dread due to a run that lasted over 40 years without us beating them in the league. We recorded a 3-1 win at the Baseball Ground in April 1953 and the next league victory against them was by the same score in April 1995.
|Charlie Austin, expected to return for Martin Paterson|
Things have improved since then. We've more than held our own and we've won four and drawn one of the last five meetings between the clubs, the last defeat coming in January 2007, a 1-0 defeat at Pride Park that saw Eric Djemba-Djemba sent off by referee Mike Riley.
It's good to be home. It's three weeks today since we beat Hull City 1-0 at Turf Moor to end 2011 and since then we've had some mixed fortunes on the road. There was the cruel, yet now predictable, defeat at Leeds, the disappointing FA Cup exit at Norwich and last week what I consider to be our best performance of the season at Middlesbrough that gave us our seventh away league win of the season.
Seven league wins on the road. It's four years since we achieved that total by mid-January. This season they've all come under the management of Eddie Howe but four years ago there were two with Steve Cotterill in charge, one for Steve Davis and the other four coming following the appointment of Owen Coyle.
The away record, overall, was better four years ago but the home record, as disappointing as it has been this season, is better than it was then.
We've started, I hope, to pull that home form round. We've won three of the last four and the last two, over the Christmas period, both ended in wins. Should we win today it will give us three successive home league victories for the first time since the first three home games of last season when we beat Nottingham Forest, Leicester and Preston.
Seven wins in the last nine is a remarkable achievement. It's lifted us from just outside the relegation places to just outside the play off places. At the end of November there was little talk amongst the Burnley fans of a push towards the play offs. "This team will go down," I heard one Burnley fan shout as he left St. Andrew's after the 2-1 defeat against Birmingham.
I saw the same Burnley fan on his feet last week at Middlesbrough singing, "E-I-E-I-E-I-O, up the Football League we go ...." as the win was secured. It's been an amazing transformation and has, at the very least, ensured we won't be in a relegation battle this season. We're all looking up again but we have to continue winning.
Today, we'll have to try and win without two of the players who started that game at Middlesbrough. First Junior Stanislas was forced off with a hamstring injury and just before the end Martin Paterson suffered the same fate.
Stanislas is expected to be out for around eight weeks. Paterson, who seems to go from one long term injury to another, is slightly better off and could only miss four weeks, this just a month after returning to the team.
Who replaces them? Eddie Howe, having also lost Sam Vokes who has returned to Wolves, brought in Josh McQuoid yesterday on a 93 day loan from Millwall. He won't start but will almost certainly be one of the five substitutes.
Charlie Austin will almost certainly come in for Pato but Stanislas' replacement is a more difficult one to predict. Keith Treacy and Zavon Hines looked the most likely candidates at the beginning of the week. Both played in the reserves at Chorley on Wednesday but I can't think either of them did enough to tell the watching manager that it should be them.
Even so, I think it will be one of them and Treacy was the better of the two, and he's had more first team action this season. I imagine he is the more likely of the two to get the nod, unless Howe opts for a different formation and gives Marvin Bartley a recall.
For now I'll go for Treacy and expect us to line up: Lee Grant, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, David Edgar, Ben Mee, Ross Wallace, Dean Marney, Chris McCann, Keith Treacy, Charlie Austin, Jay Rodriguez. Subs from: Brian Jensen, Andre Amougou, Brian Easton, Marvin Bartley, Zavon Hines, Josh McQuoid.
Our Opponents - Derby County
Derby will arrive full of confidence. They have won their last five games, four of them in the league, and haven't been beaten since the week before Christmas when they fell to a 1-0 defeat at Ipswich.
Like us, they've beaten West Ham and Hull during their recent good run. They can add Coventry to that list and also have the secret of how to beat Leeds having beaten them at Pride Park on Boxing Day.
As good as the run has been, like Burnley they are also capable of having bad runs. Their record in the month of November was played five, lost five. They were in fifth place in the table as we left October. By the time December came around they were sixteenth.
It's been that sort of season for them and, as we know, it was one that started well. When we travelled to Pride Park at the end of August we were still looking for our first win. Derby were only being kept off the top of the league by Southampton on goal difference. They had the maximum 12 points from their first four games.
So fifth, down to sixteenth, and now back up to eighth. They have one point more than us, they've conceded the same number of goals as us (33) but their 31 goals scored is eight less than us.
Their main goal threat will come from Theo Robinson. He's scored six of their goals, one more than Steve Davies, and has scored in each of the last two clashes between the two clubs, last season and this season at Pride Park.
He'll play, but Davies won't. He's been out since October with injury. Also out is Nathan Tyson. He returned from a long term injury a week before Christmas but played only three games and is ruled out again.
Nigel Clough has strengthened his squad this week with the loan capture of Ryan Noble from Sunderland. The young striker, once linked with Burnley, spent a month on loan with Derby last season but played only once because of an injury.
Although expected to be on the bench today, he said on rejoining the Rams: "I'm ready to make an impact this time."
Noble will be added to the squad which was on duty last week when they beat Coventry 1-0.
That team was: Frank Fielding, John Brayford, Shaun Barker, Jason Shackell, Gareth Roberts, Paul Green, Craig Bryson, James Bailey, Jamie Ward, Theo Robinson, Callum Ball. Subs: Adam Legzdins, Ben Davies, Mason Bennett, Jeff Hendrick, Jake Buxton.
Last Time They Were Here
This fixture last season was between two clubs looking upwards towards the Premier League. Derby arrived on a fantastic run of form that had seen them climb to fourth in the table, but the run came to an end with Burnley winning 2-1 and lifting themselves into sixth place, and we have not been that high in the league since.
|A first Burnley goal for Tyrone Mears|
It needed two late goals from Tyrone Mears and Jack Cork to turn it round after Luke Moore had given Derby a first half lead, but no one could argue that it was a fair result with Burnley virtually occupied in the Derby half throughout the second half.
Brian Laws made three changes from the team that had lost abjectly the week before at Coventry. Andre Bikey, fit again, was preferred to Michael Duff, Graham Alexander made way for Dean Marney and Ross Wallace got his first start since August with Chris Eagles ruled out with a back injury.
On the bench were new loan signing John Guidetti and, for the first time in a league game, young professional Alex-Ray Harvey.
We started the day in sixth place but were seventh by the time the game kicked off late for Sky television.
We started well but found ourselves a goal behind when Moore's shot got a double deflection off both Bikey and Clarke Carlisle.
From that moment on, Derby made no attempt to look for a second goal and opted to defend the lead. We'd been the better side in the first half, other than a period after the goal, but the second half was totally Burnley and it was just a case of whether we could get a goal.
The first came with eight minutes to go when Mears deceived Frank Fielding with a free kick from outside the box. It stunned Derby. In truth it stunned the Burnley fans who had given up hope of Mears scoring from a free kick.
I'm not sure the ball ever went too far from the Derby penalty area after that but it did look as though it was going to be a draw until the 90th minute when Cork superbly got to the near post to head a Wade Elliott cross past Fielding and give Burnley a much deserved victory.
The teams were;
Burnley: Lee Grant, Tyrone Mears, Clarke Carlisle, Andre Bikey, Brian Easton, Jack Cork, Wade Elliott, Dean Marney (Graham Alexander 80), Jay Rodriguez (John Guidetti 73), Chris Iwelumo (Steven Thompson 63), Ross Wallace. Subs not used: Brian Jensen, David Edgar, Michael Duff, Alex-Ray Harvey.
Derby County: Frank Fielding, Paul Green, John Brayford, Shaun Barker, Dean Moxey, Tomasz Cywka, Robbie Savage, Alberto Bueno (Ben Pringle 14), James Bailey, Stephen Pearson (Dean Leacock 54), Luke Moore (Chris Porter 81). Subs not used: Stephen Bywater, Conor Doyle, Jeff Hendrick, Shefki Kuqi.
Previous Games against Derby County
|Last 20 Years|
|1991/92||FA Cup||h||2-2||18,722||Harper, Eli|
|a||0-2||abandonded after 76 minutes due to fog|
|h||3-1||11,534||Davis, Eyres, Shaw|
|2002/03||Division 1||a||2-1||22,343||Blake(pen), Barton(og)|
|h||2-0||15,063||I Moore, Taylor|
|FA Cup||a||1-2||12,713||G O'Connor|
|a||4-2||25,187||Eagles(2), Elliott, McCann|
Click HERE to see all previous results against Derby County