PREVIEW: DERBY v NEWCASTLE
Posted on: Mon 17 Sep 2007
The Premier League season gets going again tonight as the Rams host Newcastle United at Pride Park Stadium.
Derby boss Billy Davies has pinpointed the game as the "official" start to the campaign after a difficult opening few weeks.
Results haven't gone Derby's way and they sit bottom of the table, without a point since the opening day.
But Davies has sent out a message that the Rams shouldn't be judged after just five games.
The gaffer has always maintained that planning and preparing for top-flight life wouldn't truly get going until after the transfer window closed and the trip to Liverpool was out of the way.
Now there's a clear period of three and a half months before the next transfer window for Davies to work with the squad available to him.
Players making progress after injury will be a positive sign as he works towards that target of 42 points he identified in pre-season.
James Milner told www.premierleague.com:
"We have been a bit disappointed with a couple of games where we thought we could have won, but there were games last season where we might not have got the point at all.
"We might have gone on to lose them so we are moving in the right direction.
"If we can get this winning habit, if we can get on a roll, we can keep pushing on.
"It's important to keep this (five-match) unbeaten run going as long as we can, particularly when we are not winning games and not playing that well.
"That's what good teams do - when they are not playing well they win games or grind out a point.
"Too many times last year - even from winning positions - we did not hold on and hopefully the mentality is different now, the set-up is different and I am sure we are moving in the right direction."
Mark Viduka will be assessed today as he continues to recover from a thigh injury that has troubled him in recent weeks.
Emre picked up a knock while away on international duty with Turkey and is a doubt.
And boss Sam Allardyce will make a late check on striker Michael Owen following a hectic period after a number of injuries and two outings for England.
Derby forward Craig Fagan begins his four-game ban after being found guilty of violent conduct in the defeat at Liverpool.
He's joined on the sidelines by Giles Barnes, who is not yet fit after a foot injury but is making progress.
Kenny Miller is on course for a debut after hamstring problems, while Eddie Lewis is set for the green light following a groin injury.
Dean Leacock, Claude Davis and David Jones are looking good, but Darren Moore is a doubt with a knee injury.
Newcastle are one of only two teams - Liverpool are the other - not to fall behind in the Premier League this season.
The visitors beat Wigan last time out but haven't recorded back-to-back league victories in 23 games.
Derby have won two of their six Premier League games at home to Newcastle - 1-0 in December 1997, and 2-0 in December 2000.
Manager Billy Davies is searching for his 100th league victory as a boss in English and Scottish football.
Northamptonshire's Peter Walton is the man in the middle at Pride Park.
He arrives on the back of 13 yellow cards in five games but is yet to issue a red card.
Walton's last visit to Derby came in November 2006 when he oversaw the 2-1 win at home to West Bromwich Albion.