Derby County v West Ham United
This extended FA Cup Fourth Round weekend ends with League One Derby County hosting Premier League West Ham United. Those looking to mark down the potential upsets from this round should definitely be giving this match a consideration.
After a long period of hardship, Derby County are on the mend and seeking an immediate return to the second tier. An impressive run of form has the Rams not only inside the play-offs, but wondering if they could maintain the high standards that would leave them close to the automatic promotion places. Plymouth Argyle and Sheffield Wednesday have been exceptional sides in 2022-23, but third place Ipswich Town have been found guilty on multiple occasions of not capitalising on their dominance. Those dropped points, coupled with Derby’s momentum, have seen Paul Warne’s side move to within four points of the Tractor Boys, all while still having a game in hand on them. The Rams enter this Monday night fixture on a run of six straight victories in all competitions, including a 3-0 demolition of fellow League One play-off side Barnsley in the previous round of the FA Cup.
What West Ham United would give for six straight wins. The Hammers may have Europa Conference League knockout football on the horizon, but the priority has to be maintaining their Premier League status. West Ham’s gap to the relegation zone is two places and just a single point, a 2-0 home win over fellow strugglers Everton has greatly helped them keep their heads above water for now. That and their Third Round win at Brentford have been West Ham’s only domestic wins since the 24th October, and that run of negative rules has cast uncertainty onto the Hammers immediate future. Could this cup tie, even if it is against opposition two leagues lower, be an unnecessary distraction for the East London outfit?
Derby County are flying under Paul Warne. Since losing 1-0 at Ipswich Town on the 21st October, the Rams have gone 19 games without a defeat inside 90 minutes. That run extends back to the 8th October if including home matches. On that day, Derby County suffered defeat to Port Vale, and in the recent return fixture at Vale Park, the Rams turned the game on its head with 87th and 89th goals to win 2-1. Everton loan winger Lewis Dobbin made a key impact after being brought on from the substitute bench, with Irish forward David McGoldrick and winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing grabbing the goals from close range.
There will be no fear from Paul Warne’s side in this Pride Park encounter. Able to maintain almost perfect consistency with his starting eleven, this Derby County team are currently playing well above League One level, looking the clear team to avoid in the League One Play-Off places. It may not even end up mattering whether West Ham United go full strength or not, there is going to be only one team on that pitch full of confidence.
Only second place Sheffield Wednesday have conceded fewer League One goals this season than Derby County. The Rams have found consistency in a solid back four that includes Joe Wildsmith as the starting goalkeeper. Natural midfielder Korey Smith is excelling in a right-back role, Haydon Roberts and Louie Sibley rotating in the left-back position. Young Irish defender Eiran Cashin has been missing for Derby’s last two matches, but the absence of the star defender hasn’t been felt as the much more experienced pair of Craig Forsyth and Curtis Davies have settled together well. Academy product Max Bird is a key cog in midfield, providing a disciplined role alongside Ireland International Conor Hourihane.
Bolton’s 93rd minute consolation goal last weekend was the first goal Derby County had conceded at Pride Park for seven matches. The Rams have made a habit of keeping opposition at bay with a home defensive record only bettered by four sides in the division. West Ham United might provide Derby with opposition two divisions higher, but the struggling side will do well to breach the hosts backline on more than one occasion. Very few teams have been able to do it across the entire season.
David McGoldrick’s goal at Vale Park on Tuesday was the ninth league goal this season for Derby County’s top scorer. He may now be 35 years old, but the former Republic of Ireland International is still showing to be a cut above League One level. Leading the line or either playing in a free role behind the striker, McGoldrick is a classy player who cleverly manipulates the ball to create goal scoring opportunities for both himself and his team mates.
No one in the Derby County squad averages more shots than David McGoldrick, who takes 3.4 on average per 90. Around half of these shots come from within 18 yards of goal, and the location often depends on where the 35-year-old has found space to receive the ball. He will be the prime candidate for Derby County attacking influence on Monday night.
The 30-year-old winger was one of several high calibre summer signings at Pride Park, and has certainly been showing it in recent games. Initially deployed as a wing-back, Paul Warne’s shift to a 4-2-3-1 has got Mendez-Laing back into a more natural attacking role, where his runs into the box following attacks down the left have been rewarded with goals against Bolton Wanderers and Port Vale.
A key attacking influence in an in-form Derby County side, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing averages 1.9 shots per 90, the majority of these coming from within 18 yards of goal. Add to that his lightning turn of pace and ability to beat a direct opponent, and this is a player West Ham United will need to keep quiet if they hope to progress.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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