How’s the season gone for Derby so far?
Objectively, very well and much better than I predicted. Had I been told we’d be sitting fourth at this stage, the proverbial hand would have been snatched clean off.
However, our form has dropped away significantly, with a run of only one win and four draws from our past six games threatening to detail what had become a viable run at automatic promotion.
So will The Rams have to settle for the play-off lottery?
That’s the £100m+ question. Based on our current struggles and the relative strength of those around us, another nerve-shredding and very tough play-off battle seems most likely. I wasn’t particularly confident of a top-six finish this season, so would have to accept that if it is the final result.
In terms of dangermen, it’s hard to look past Matej Vydra - how important has he been for you this season?
This is the problem. Vydra has been outstanding and looks too good to be playing in this division on current performances, but he hasn’t had enough consistent back-up. David Nugent hasn’t scored since December 23, Sam Winnall is out for the season with a serious injury and marquee signing Tom Lawrence has only two goals to his name so far. Rowett is looking to January recruits Cameron Jerome and Kasey Palmer for additional firepower and I expect both of them to start at your place.
Any weaknesses in this Derby side that Reading should look to exploit?
We are the third top scorers and have conceded third least, so on paper, it’s a very strong team. However, Rowett is struggling to settle on a favoured line-up at the moment, so its impossible to predict exactly who will be selected at the Madejski.
Fans will always find fault to pick when the wins aren’t flowing and there have been mutterings about the left back slot lately, where neither Craig Forsyth nor Marcus Olsson have been convincing of late.
I would be surprised and delighted if Reading allow Vydra any room to play - everybody knows that you do that at your peril. The question then becomes whether anybody else can step up for us, if Vydra is nullified.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
At the moment, I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach following the Leeds game, so it’s hard to be objective. Judging from the stats though, Derby should be slight favourites, despite Reading’s home advantage.
Things just haven’t been going for us lately and we are in dire need of a win to bolster morale and restore a bit of faith at this pivotal point in the season. Despite Reading’s dreadful current form, I’ll plump for a nervy 1-0 to Derby and would take that result very gladly if offered.