10:00 Friday 17 January 2014

Derby County v Brighton & Hove Albion: Match preview

Written bySTEVE NICHOLSON

CHEEKY APPOINTMENT . . . Derby County captain Richard Keogh, who suffered a fractured cheekbone, is hoping to be given the all clear on Friday CHEEKY APPOINTMENT . . . Derby County captain Richard Keogh, who suffered a fractured cheekbone, is hoping to be given the all clear on Friday

STEVE McClaren admits he faces a dilemma over team selection ahead of Derby County’s Championship clash against Brighton and Hove Albion tomorrow, kick-off 3pm.

McClaren was full of praise for the way the Rams climbed to fourth on a back of a nine-match unbeaten run.

Successive league defeats have followed including a heavy one at the hands of leaders Leicester City a week ago when the performance dipped well below par.

And the head coach must now decide whether to make changes.

Skipper and central defender Richard Keogh (pcitured) has trained this week and will be in the squad after recovering from the knee injury that has seen him miss five matches of which Derby won only one.

Experienced midfielder John Eustace is pushing for a recall after he was surprisingly left out at Leicester.

And new loan signing from Chelsea, Patrick Bamford, is knocking on the door for a first start. The striker can fill a wide attacking role.

Asked how tempted he is make changes, McClaren said it is a dilemma but stressed the importance of not forgetting how well the team has done in recent months.

“Do you change the team completely after the Leicester game? What criticism can you really give to a team that went on such an unbeaten run and in two or three months lost only one game?” said the former England boss.

“We have had two defeats now in the league – Wigan and Leicester – and one in the FA Cup against Chelsea, but we have not got to let that sidetrack what we have been doing.

“People must not over-react now and that is the key thing.

“Let’s not get a big over-reaction to losing a football match in the manner we did.

“We will lose more and it is how you come back from that.

“We have just got to keep our heads, be patient and be relaxed, and get our work done out on the field – whoever plays.”

Keogh damaged his knee after 25 minutes of the 3-1 home victory over Doncaster Rovers on December 21.

“Richard has trained this week and looked very good,” said McClaren.

“We will have to assess it fitness-wise, what he has missed and how he feels. Is it a risk? We will see if there is any reaction and make a decision Saturday.

“When he is fit and we think he is right, he will play.

“He is our captain and leader, you are bound to miss that.

“I think the team has done exceptionally well after losing a big player like him, and credit to Michael Keane and Jake Buxton.

“It is about the squad and everybody is in contention.

“I see nothing wrong with the players who played against Leicester, they played very well previously.

“I think this team will go on another run, and I hope it starts Saturday.”

Striker Johhny Russell is not available despite returning to training this week.

He is wearing a mask to protect the cheekbone he fractured playing against Wigan on New Year’s Day.

“Johnny has trained, but with no contact. He will probably be available for full training next week and hopefully for the Blackburn game,” said McClaren.

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