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View From The Town End: Derby County

In a match that's sure to not be known as the Nick Blackman derby approaches, what can we expect from Derby tonight?

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Ahead of Reading's trip to Derby tonight, we get the views of Ollie from The Derby County Blog.

How would you sum up Derby's season so far?

Second place in the table, third best for goals scored, second best defensive record. Those figures speak for themselves and the club underlined their commitment to challenging for automatic promotion by adding two attackers to an already strong squad as soon as the January window opened.

Things are certainly going to plan so far, with the only nagging annoyances being the loss at Forest - beating them would have triggered a managerial sacking and fresh chaos - losing at home to Leeds in the last minute, after a curious run of four draws at the start of the season and then, last time out, losing late on at Boro - where we played our part in a heavyweight slugfest until Paul Clement's attacking substitution proved to be the wrong call. You forget that he is still very new to the managerial game.

Your win at the Madejski earlier in the campaign was just when you seemed to begin to click under Paul Clement, how happy are you with him so far?

Very. The playing style is a bit less cavalier than it was under McClaren, but that was a necessary adjustment after last season's unprecedented collapse. Off the field, Clement's media style is highly refreshing - honest, clear, concise.

This is Clement's first managerial job, but on the evidence of the season so far, he was more than ready to step into the gaffer's shoes. It should be acknowledged, however, that he's been helped out handsomely by new owner Mel Morris, who is a Derby man and extremely wealthy. The austerity years of American ownership were deeply frustrating for the fans, but at least those seasons of mid-table belt-tightening meant that Morris inherited a club which was stable. The conditions were right for him to invest in adding quality and depth to the existing squad and he's not hung around in doing that.

Is there a belief that after two-seasons of near misses, you'll be able to get across the line this year?

Yes, but it's always accompanied by the nagging doubt that something will go horribly wrong. After the 13/14 play-off final defeat and last season's carnage, it's impossible to believe that everything will just go smoothly and we'll saunter into the top two without more drama at some stage. Losing at Boro set some nerves jangling, but the two signings since then - Nick Blackman and Abdoul 'Razza' Camara - have provided the additional firepower required to keep the goals flowing right until the end of the season (hopefully...)

What was your initial reaction to the Blackman signing?

Cautious optimism. Clement knew the player from his spell at Blackburn and will presumably also have had a thorough reference from Steve Clarke, so we have to trust that the manager has a plan for how best to integrate Blackman into the side. I'm a huge fan of Chris Martin, but can't help feeling that the big man needs a bit more support than he has been getting from midfield, as a lone striker in the current 4-3-3 system.

It's interesting to note that Blackman has primarily been used as a wide forward cutting in off the right by Reading, as this is a role Tom Ince has filled so far this term for Derby. Ince has always said he wants to play as a number ten, so we could potentially now see a change in formation to 4-2-3-1, at least in some games.

Who should Reading fans be wary of on Tuesday?

Blackman, obviously, but there are goal threats throughout the team. Martin's recent lean spell in terms of goals doesn't alter the fact that he is an ever-present threat, just as much with his back to goal in opposition territory as he is inside the penalty area. Ince can turn a game in an instant (check out the first goal of his hat-trick against Bristol City). Left winger Camara could be making his home debut, having joined from Angers in Ligue 1 - reports indicate that he was among the quickest players in French football. Creative midfielder Jacob Butterfield can nick a goal with either boot, while right back Cyrus Christie is capable of stirring runs to disrupt settled defences.

When the Rams click, they are a force to be reckoned with. However, at the time of writing, our principal holding midfielder George Thorne is expected to miss this game through injury and especially with two new players coming into the squad, I'm not entirely sure how Derby will line up.

Any Reading player you're worried about?

While Blackman was the chief goal-threat and will be a big loss, I actually thought Reading played very well when the two sides met earlier in the season and it was only when Sá lost his rag and got sent off that the match turned Derby's way.

I've always liked Vydra and his name is one of those that I don't like to see on an opposition teamsheet. With Thorne absent, if Vydra is playing as a deep-lying striker, he might be able to cause danger by lurking between the lines and linking up the attacking play.

Score prediction?

My main fear for this game is complacency - just because Reading are in mid-table, the home fans shouldn't expect a walkover. The previous home performance against Fulham was unspectacular and we need to see an improvement on that to make sure we win this match.

The Boro result was deflating and there'll be a serious desire from everyone to see the Rams bounce straight back with three points. With that in mind, the mood in the stadium could get antsy if Reading nick the first goal and then do what away teams do in that situation. However, the loss of Blackman is undoubtedly a big factor against Reading and may well tilt this particular encounter in our favour (I don't think Mel will be allowed to buy everybody else's top scorer just before we play them, though!)

I'm going to say 2-1 Derby.

Finally, any tips for Reading fans making the trip?

Culture vultures who get in early should pop into QUAD, opposite the council offices in the city centre.

Thanks again to Ollie and you can follow the chaps over at DCB @derbycountyblog