NIGEL Clough is warning his Derby County players to be wary of the threat posed by Tranmere Rovers tomorrow.
The Rams face Ronnie Moore’s League One high-fliers at Pride Park in the FA Cup third round, kick-off 3pm.
Tranmere look to be heading back to the second tier of English football after 10 years away.
And Clough thinks the tie is a perfect gauge for Moore to judge his side at Championship level.
“Tranmere are a good side,” said the Rams boss. “They’re three points clear at the top of League One.
“They’re organised and more than capable of hitting you on the break.
“It will be a great experience for them and I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to seeing how they cope with it — we’ll have to be right on it to get a positive result.
“The third round throws up some great ties and we’re capable of getting through to the later rounds.
“We were close to the quarter-finals a couple of years ago when we played Birmingham.
“We think we can challenge for the top six as well as having a cup run.”
Clough welcomes Moore to Pride Park as one of the game’s true characters who has been an outstanding manager at unfashionable clubs.
He is a legend at both Rotherham United and Tranmere for his exploits as a prolific striker and later as manager.
“Ronnie’s one of those great football people,” said Clough. “One of my abiding memories is him at Rotherham when they were in the Championship.
“They’d had some bad results but the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he walked down the touchline to the dug-out at the Millmoor.
“He’s a fantastic football man.”
Clough will be looking to end Moore and Tranmere’s interest in the Cup at the
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first hurdle, but will have to do it without several key players.
As well as long-term injury victims Shaun Barker and Jake Buxton (both knee), Jamie Ward is unlikely to figure after aggravating his hamstring tear in last week’s 1-1 draw at Charlton Athletic.
Gareth Roberts (calf) and Craig Bryson (knee) face late fitness tests.
“We won’t risk any of them,” said Clough. “With 20 games left in the league - and hopefully some games in the cup - there’s no point.”
As for the Cup, Clough has some great memories of playing in the competition for Nottingham Forest and later managing Burton Albion to their greatest ever achievement - a third round draw and replay against Manchester United in 2006.
But his memories of playing in the competition are growing hazy.
“I can’t remember too many,” he said. “With Forest we seemed to either get knocked out in the third round or get to the semis.
“It was all or nothing.
“Getting knocked out at Crawley stands out too!
“And losing last year to Stoke too, but they’re capable of beating anyone.”