With the Championship playoffs looming large this week, Vital Latics’ Frank Ford takes a closer look at the four contenders
Derby County – The Rams
It’s Play-off time!! The playoffs are a wonderful thing, as an American sports fans it’s what every team wants, as every major American sport is decided by playoffs. It’s something we don’t see in the Premier League, but it is offered in the lower leagues of football and always adds excitement and ambiguity to the end of the season. I have to share one of my favourite clips, this is what Americans think of when they hear play-offs.
Back in August 24 teams came into the season all with their eyes on the Premier League. After 46 games, two teams have already booked their place in the top flight of English Football. Leicester city and Burnley have earned that right, but one spot remains and for four clubs it all comes down to the Sky Bet Championship Playoffs!
3rd place Derby County will take on 6th place Brighton & Hove Albion whilst in the other semi-final, 4th place Queens Park Rangers will face 5th place Wigan Athletic.
The playoffs give that any team that makes them the chance of earning promotion, in the last five seasons the 3rd place team has won the playoffs twice, the 5th place twice and the 6th place once.
The Rams come into the playoffs the favourites. Derby County finished the season with 85 points. They come into the playoffs in good form, undefeated in the last 7 games. The Rams are the highest scoring team in the Championship with 84 goals in all games, lead by Chris Martin who scored 17 goals this campaign.
Key Players to watch out for:
Chris Martin – FW – 17 goals – 8 assists
Craig Bryson – MF -14 goals – 12 assists
Jake Buxton – DF- 2 goals – 13 clean sheets
Derby County (Q) position 3rd, played 46, won 25, drawn 10, lost 11, for 84, against 52, goal difference +32, points 85
2-1 (W) at Brighton
3-1 (W) at Wigan
1-0 (W) vs. QPR
5-0 (W) vs. Nottingham Forrest
1-0 (L) vs. Millwall
1-0 (L) vs. Wigan
4-1 (L) vs. Leicester City
Meetings this season:
Brighton & Hove Albion 1 – 2 Derby County
Derby did the double over Brighton this season. The Rams travelled down to Sussex in the second game of the campaign, they went behind early to a Jose Ulloa goal, but a double from Chris Martin saw the Rams victorious.
Derby County 1 – 0 Brighton & Hove Albion
In the second meeting between the two sides, Derby had been on a run of three defeats. In a close game with little chances, a second half goal by Patrick Bamford was the difference between the two sides.
Derby County were very consistent and impressive throughout the season, they know how to score goals while playing attractive football and are a very attack minded team. They didn’t suffer any real bad losses throughout the season, discounting a 1-0 slipup at home to Millwall. Derby`s record against teams in the top 6 was won 4, lost 6, four of those losses were to Leicester and Burnley, meaning a 4-2 record over teams in the playoffs. Derby County had the third best away record in the league and are not afraid to play away from Pride Park, making them a real threat. They have goal scoring options throughout their squad, Martin and Bryson leading the way, but Patrick Bamford and Jamie Ward contribute as well, both have seven goals this campaign.
Their main weakness coming into the playoffs is their defence. Derby posted the 8th best defensive record in the Championship, but they have weakest defence of the four teams in the play-offs with 52 goals conceded. Can Brighton take advantage of their weaker defence or will the high-powered offensive be too much for the Seagulls to handle?