17:51 Sunday 31 March 2013

Nigel Clough eyes three on the bounce for Derby County

Written byDAVID BROOME

DEKL20130329A-032_C.JPG Picture: Kate Lowe.Derby County vs Bristol City NPower Championship.Jamie Ward celebrates after he scores for Derby to make it 2-0. DEKL20130329A-032_C.JPG Picture: Kate Lowe.Derby County vs Bristol City NPower Championship.Jamie Ward celebrates after he scores for Derby to make it 2-0.

NIGEL Clough is hoping to break new ground tomorrow as his Derby County side go in search of a third consecutive win for the first time this season.

The Rams travel to old rivals Leeds United for a 5.05pm Easter Monday kick-off keen to carry on the momentum that has seen them pick up back-to-back victories over Leicester City and, on Friday night, against Bristol City.

Clough has not guided his side to three wins in a row since January 2012, and to do so, he knows he will have to turn around the club’s poor away form, that has seen them pick up just three wins on the road this season.

“We think a result is coming and we’ve been close to it at both Cardiff and Birmingham by taking the lead,” said Clough.

“But the players are more than aware that we need to do a little bit more to get over the line.

“What we need to do is go on and get a second goal when we do take the lead, like we do at home, and a clean sheet wouldn’t go amiss too.”

Back in the 1970s, this was a hotly-contested fixture as both teams were challenging for honours at the top of the old First Division, and though both teams have faded since then, Clough is still anticipating a fiery encounter.

Neil Warnock, who could leave Elland Road this summer, still has the Championship play-offs in sight, but the Rams have an incredible recent record against the Yorkshire club, having won the last eight games on the bounce in an unbeaten run stretching back to 2005.

Clough said: “We’ve had an incredible run against them really, but this one will be as hard as any.

“They’re still in with a shout of getting in the play-offs and we expect Neil Warnock to be pointing out to his players very strongly that we’ve won eight in a row against them, and there’s no way he will want it to continue.

“He’s hinted in the last few weeks he might leave Leeds at the end of the season so he’ll be as eager as ever to put the record right, and it’ll be a very tough test for us going up there.

“There’s always a bit of added spice when we play Leeds and it’s a game we always look forward to, and we’ll certainly go there full of confidence after our recent results against Leicester and Bristol City.

“We need to make sure we match them physically and play our football from there.”

Meanwhile, Clough was pleased with the professional job his players did in easing past the rock-bottom Robins at Pride Park on Friday.

Derby claimed a deserved victory thanks to goals from Jeff Hendrick, Jamie Ward and Ben Davies.

Clough said: Looking back on the Easter Friday encounter against Bristol City, Clough said: “We were extremely happy to get back-to-back wins under our belts and our performance merited the three points.

“Bristol City might be bottom of the table but it was always going to be a very difficult game, and crucially we didn’t give them a sniff.

“The manner of our performance was very good, we attacked at every opportunity and it was nice to keep a clean sheet as well because we’ve not had too many this season.

“It was clear the win over Leicester a fortnight ago has helped relax the players and now we’re back in the top half of the table we want to stay there, and we’ll continue to bang the drum to say we want to end the season on a high.

“We’re past 50 points now and the next aim is to get towards 60 and with three home games left we hope we can get close to it with those, as well as getting a result or two on our travels.”

Derby are likely to be unchanged for the third game in a row with Gareth Roberts (calf) still a major doubt and Jamie Ward, who came off in the second-half against Bristol City after his hamstring tightened, hoping to start again.

Clough said: “It’ll be the same squad all being well and there will be very few changes, if any, to the starting line-up.

“Jamie Ward’s hamstring tightened up after an hour on Friday so we have to be careful with him but we think he’ll be alright, and even if he isn’t Ben Davies showed the sort of impact he can have coming off the bench by getting a goal.”

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