It’s one of the biggest matches on the fixture list — Nottingham Forest head to Pride Park this Saturday to take on Derby County. Andy Buckley-Taylor tells us what to expect from the home side…

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What are your expectations for this season?

At the start of the season, I think that it would be fair to say that most fans were expecting nothing more than a top 10 finish. The players Nigel Clough brought in — such as Michael Jacobs, Paul Coutts and Richard Keogh — were perhaps not expected to shine as much as they have.

Paul Coutts has been a brilliant signing and is surely in the running for ‘Player of the Season’ at £125,000 — I think we mugged Preston. Jacobs has only recently been given a run of first team starts, but has impressed both on the left-wing and also playing up front. Fans were ‘up in arms’ at the sale of Jason Shackell, but Keogh is every bit as good if not better. In my opinion he was the best player on the pitch at the City Ground fixture.

Connor Sammon came in from Wigan for £1.2 million and to be honest I didn’t rate him after his first half-dozen games. He has though come through and started to find the net on a regular basis. I’m happy to eat humble pie on my initial take of him as a signing.

I still think that the play-offs may be just a little too much, we need to start picking up more points away from home if we are to make the top six. The kind of player we lack, which would help us make a push for the play-offs, is an experienced head who has been there and done it. Such an addition could make all the difference.

What’s the fans’ general opinion of Nigel Clough?

Well it changes from one week to another. There’s nothing as fickle as a Derby fan. A good win sees many of them acting as if it’s the Second Coming of Clough and when we lose it’s Clueless Clough. It was made known from day one of his appointment that his was an appointment with a long-term strategy. He’s shaved £7 million off wages and other expenditure and had very little to spend himself. I suppose you’ll still get mixed reactions depending on who you ask the question to, but to those who are not with the manager, you have to ask them who they would like in charge? Most will struggle to come up with a good alternative.

Have there been many changes since last season?

Apart from a few changes to the playing staff, I think that Derby’s midfield is so much better than last season. Craig Bryson is the engine, but Will Hughes has added some much needed quality. His ability to read the game and make those vital passes at 17-years-old has given us a much needed boost. Also after a slow start, Jeff Hendrick is starting to show good form again. The team can play a nice passing game, but also has the ability to switch style of play should the need arise.

What can we expect tactically?

Nigel Clough and Johnny Metgod will have done their homework and looked at Forest’s strengths and weaknesses to try and capitalise on any areas that they think we can exploit. I would expect our strongest available line-up being fielded allowing for injuries.

Who are the key players to watch out for?

Bryson in the centre of midfield is a very important player for us. He covers miles during a game. Also, I believe that Coutts and John Brayford linking up down the right could be key for us. I don’t know why, but I get a feeling that Sammon could have a big part to play too.

What’s going to happen on Saturday?

Anyone who puts money on the outcome of this game is very brave. I predict that it will be a tight, closely fought game, possibly won by a single goal and if recent history is anything to go by there is a fair chance that someone will receive a red card. Other than that I’d hate to say.

I’m always a bag of nerves prior to kick-off, never celebrate before the final whistle and, unless we are two goals up, I’m never comfortable. I’m hoping for 5-2 Derby as I’m still not satisfied we’ve paid you back properly, but I’d settle for 1-0.

Follow Andy on Twitter: @BuckTaylor64

Image: JThomas (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

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