Top strikers take on worst defence

By Derek DavisChief Football WriterONE of the leakiest defences in the division entertain the most prolific strike force today and Simo Valakari has told his Derby County team-mates to get nasty if they want to bring their alarming run of defeats to an end.

By Derek Davis

Chief Football Writer

ONE of the leakiest defences in the division entertain the most prolific strike force today and Simo Valakari has told his Derby County team-mates to get nasty if they want to bring their alarming run of defeats to an end.

The Rams have conceded 11 goals during their run of defeats and have managed only one win in their last 10 league outings. They lost their fourth match in succession against Preston North End last Saturday and are fourth from bottom and only four points off the basement of the Division One table.


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Finland midfielder Valakari believes it is time for the Rams to get tough.

He said: “Maybe we have to get nasty and rough teams up a bit. It is not about the performances any more, it is all about the results.

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“If we can get a few results by playing nasty, then we can start trying to play football again.”

As well as struggling defensively, Derby have also had a tough time in front of goal - scoring twice in their last four games.

Skipper Ian Taylor is the Rams' leading scorer with six goals and Valakari believes the team must take collective responsibility for the goals for and against columns.

He said: “People will blame the strikers for not scoring and the defenders for conceding goals but it is everybody's responsibility.

“Ian Taylor has done very well for us but we need goals from other people. We also need to start defending from the front.”

Although Valakari admits the Rams are already in a relegation battle, he is confident that the current squad can turn things around.

“It is only the start of November and it is too early to give up,” he said.

“We have played a lot of the so-called big teams and we have not been played off the park once.

“I am confident it will turn for us but we have to keep believing in ourselves and keep fighting for everything.

“I feel a lot more optimistic than I did last season because the atmosphere at the club is much better.

“Off the field and on the training ground, there is a great togetherness. Everybody wants to help each other.

“There were so many problems both on and off the field last season but now we can just concentrate on what is happening on the pitch.

“We know that it is going to be a struggle but look at the young players we have and they are improving every week.”

Just like Ipswich, Derby have a dilemma at who to play in central defence alongside Michael Johnson, who returns after a one-match absence.

Richard Jackson is struggling with the effects of flu, so Youl Mawene will probably keep his place after coming back last week following a 21-month injury lay off.

If Jackson makes it that means Pablo Mills will probably drop to the bench.

Valakari will line up alongside top-scorer Taylor in midfielder after the former Aston Villa and Port Vale midfielder returned from a one-match ban.

County will field two 16-year-olds with Tom Huddlestone, also back after a suspension, on the right flank. On the left, County's youngest-ever player, Lee Holmes, who made his debut at 15 and is also their youngest ever goalscorer, is on the left.

Peter Kennedy, on loan from Wigan, also comes back after a match ban and will settle in at left back.

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