Derby County manager Wayne Rooney has stressed the importance of the Rams putting in a ‘disciplined’ performance against Reading tonight, as he spoke to the club’s media team ahead of this evening’s clash.
The East Midlands side come into this match after suffering a heartbreaking 1-0 loss against Sheffield United late on at Bramall Lane last weekend, with Billy Sharp’s 89th-minute proving to be the difference between the two sides despite brave defending after Kelle Roos’ red card.
With one man down, no players set to return from injury in time for tonight and the Rams opting not to appeal their first-choice shot-stoppers red card in South Yorkshire, they face a tough test as Reading pay a visit to Pride Park.
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Although they have their own off-the-pitch worries with a likely points deduction on the horizon, their performances on it have been a lot brighter since the international break after losing four of their opening five league games of the season.
With late summer signings including Baba Rahman, Danny Drinkwater and Alen Halilovic all making an impact, and Scott Dann potentially in contention for tonight, they have gone unbeaten in their previous five fixtures and have managed to lift themselves into the top half of the table.
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Haliovic, Ovie Ejaria and John Swift have been particularly instrumental in this success with their movement, the latter’s 11 goal contributions this term and the former two’s ability to play more centrally. Derby boss Rooney is particularly wary of the Royals’ style of play.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s game, he said: “It will be a very difficult game.
“They are quite a fluid team in possession and there are no real patterns to how they play.
“Players turn up in various positions on the pitch, so we will have to be disciplined in how we approach things.
“We will have to use the fans inside the stadium with the atmosphere they will create for us. We will try and press them at the right times and put them under pressure.”
Those three will be key danger men for the Royals, as well as loanee Danny Drinkwater who certainly has an eye for a pass and will be instrumental in the middle of the park as the away side look to claim all three points.
However, Derby have their own key strength with their experience and solidity at the back. Although George Puscas is Reading’s only senior striker with Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite both out injured for the foreseeable future, Junior Hoilett has taken the role up top and this potential weakness could be something the home team can exploit tonight.
It’s obvious, but they will get at least a point out of the game if they don’t concede and they were so close to keeping a clean sheet at Bramall Lane. With the home advantage and a weaker team on paper to face, keeping it tight at the back may not be their highest priority tonight.
But a strong backline can help to compensate for a misfiring attack, something that’s always going to be a possibility with the continued absence of Colin Kazim-Richards.
It will certainly be needed against the likes of Swift, Ejaria and Halilovic who have all stepped up to the plate in recent games and shown their worth for Reading – and a disciplined performance will only help on their quest to win all three points tonight.