DERBY COUNTY boss Gary Rowett admits Leeds United will be “highly motivated” for tonight’s clash at Elland Road but says his thriving Rams side should have “nothing to fear” from their visit to LS11.
Leeds approach the fixture sitting two positions above the seventh-placed Rams but while fifth-placed United have lost five of their last seven league games, Derby are on a six-game unbeaten run.
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The Rams, who have a game in hand on Leeds, have also won their last three with County just one point behind the Whites after Saturday’s 2-1 success at Norwich City.
Victory at Elland Road would take the visitors into the division’s play-offs at United’s expense and Rowett sees no reason why his men cannot record a fourth victory in a row.
“It will be a tough game for us, even though they’re not in great form,” said Rowett at his pre-match press conference.
“They will be highly motivated to turn things around.
“I’ve had some good results there as a manager, so there is nothing to fear but you respect the place and the atmosphere.”
Rowett has a long history of doing battle with United be it as boss at former club Birmingham City or as a player.
The former defender faced United with Derby, Leicester City and Charlton Athletic and can well recall George Graham’s Leeds recovering from 3-0 down to beat his Rams side 4-3 in a Premier Division clash of November 1997.
He recalled: “When people mention Elland Road, I always think back to the night we went 3-0 up after about 25 minutes. (see You Tube clip)
“Then Harry Kewell scored just before half-time and the crowd lifted. I think they equalised in the 85th minute and you knew what was coming. We couldn’t stop it. It was a really hostile environment.”
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They equalised in the 85th minute and you knew what was coming. We couldn’t stop it. It was a really hostile environment.Derby boss Gary Rowett on the 4-3 defeat to Leeds at Elland Road back in 1997
Derby could feasibly go fourth with victory in a division in which just three points separate the eight teams below third-placed Cardiff City, who have a four-point cushion to the chasing pack.
The Bluebirds are one point behind second-placed Wolves who are just a point adrift of new leaders Sheffield United.
The Blades moved top with Friday night’s 2-1 win at Leeds but Rowett hopes his side can soon make inroads on the division’s automatic promotion places.
Rowett added: “I think we’ll see a league that’s as close as it’s ever been this season.
“You see what a few wins can do. That’s why you can’t panic too much if you lose a game or two.
“You look at teams like (second-placed) Wolves and think they have pulled away a bit but the gap between us and them is only four points if we win our game in hand. So we’re building nicely and if we get our attitude spot on, the results will keep coming.
“I think we are starting to build that resilience and understanding of the players.
“I think that goes with steady improvement. I’ve always said that this team will get better and we’re showing signs of that.”
Derby’s Johnny Russell is a doubt for the clash at Elland Road with a groin strain while Matej Vydra has been struggling with a calf injury.
Defender Jason Shackell also has a calf problem.