Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing The Lions' opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. As we prepare to take on Derby County at Pride Park this Wednesday night, we look at The Rams this campaign.
An abundant amount of interest was invested in Derby County this summer, following their appointment of former Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard in his first senior managerial role. A potential unknown quantity, Derby looked to replicate last season under Gary Rowett with at least a Play-Off position. Throughout July and August, Lampard recruited the likes of Martyn Waghorn, Florian Jozefzoon and Jack Marriott, whilst the likes of Matej Vydra, Andreas Weimann and Cameron Jerome departed Pride Park. The Rams went on to win four of their five pre-season fixtures, claiming the scalps of Notts County, Southampton, Coventry City and Wolves, losing out to Mansfield Town.
Lampard's debut on the sidelines came at the Madejski Stadium against Reading, with the Friday night fixture raising the curtain on the 2018/19 season. In dramatic circumstances, The Rams came from behind in the second half to win 2-1, with Tom Lawrence netting a 94th-minute decider. It was quickly to be a reality check for Lampard, as Derby were then beaten 4-1 in their opening home clash by Leeds United, before they made the trip south to enter The Den. Millwall's first win of the season resigned Derby to 14th place, with Jake Cooper and Shaun Williams' first-half goals earning a 2-1 victory for The Lions. The Rams had beaten Oldham Athletic 2-0 in the Carabao Cup First Round just prior, and secured successive home League victories - both 2-0 - over Ipswich Town and Preston North End, before another Carabao Cup win, a 4-0 rout at Hull City to close August.
September was to be a mixed month for Derby after finishing August strongly. Another victory on Humberside against Hull - this time a 2-1 success in the League, was followed by a narrow loss at Rotherham United. After a goalless home draw with Blackburn Rovers, The Rams then dispatched Brentford 3-1 before a memorable Carabao Cup Third Round tie at Old Trafford, in which they came from behind to at one point lead against Manchester United before going on to finish the job on penalties following the 2-2 draw. The shock victory saw Lampard come out on top against former manager Jose Mourinho, with a frustrating 1-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers closing the month. Derby sat ninth in the Sky Bet Championship, and were paired with Lampard's ex-club Chelsea in the Fourth Round of the Carabao Cup.
October saw progress show for The Rams, as the team made a push to keep a consistent place in the top six. Following consecutive 1-1 draws with Norwich City and QPR, Derby came out on top against fellow promotion contenders Sheffield United, winning 2-1 at Pride Park. This was followed by a devastating 4-1 beating of West Bromwich Albion, before a respectable 1-1 share of the spoils at Middlesbrough. Having twice equalised at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea, the tie proved a step too far for Lampard's Rams at his former home as The Blues edged a 3-2 scoreline. Derby entered the Play-Offs during October, with just four fixtures in November to pick up points.
Derby suffered with a struggle for consistency during November, with back-to-back all-Midlands clashes at Pride Park followed by two tricky away days. Beginning the month with a 3-1 victory over Birmingham City, Derby then took a step back as Aston Villa enjoyed a 3-0 success in the East Midlands. Following the third international break of the season, The Rams took three points from Hillsborough with a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday, before a narrow defeat at Stoke City to drop the side out of the Play-Offs approaching December.
With no less than six Championship fixtures being played out across December, the season picked up pace and would leave no slow trailers behind. Derby began the month in the ideal way, as a 2-1 win over Swansea City and a solitary goal to pick up three points at Wigan Athletic lifted The Rams up to a season-high of fourth. A stalemate at Pride Park in the first East Midlands derby of the campaign against Nottingham Forest then preceded another point in a 1-1 draw against fellow Play-Off chasers Bristol City. It was not to be an unbeaten month, with Sheffield United coming out on top 3-1 on Boxing Day, before one of the most thrilling contests in the EFL season so far as The Rams came from 3-2 down at Norwich City in the final minutes to take home a shock 4-3 triumph from Carrow Road and finish off 2018 in style.
The turn of the year was just as busy for Lampard and his team, with three League games and three Cup contests covering the month's football. Derby's 1-1 home draw with Middlesbrough started off 2019 on New Year's Day, before the team's Emirates FA Cup campaign got underway at Pride Park against Southampton of the Premier League. A 2-2 draw took the tie to a replay at St. Mary's, which would be played after The Rams' 2-0 League defeat at Leeds. Another tie of the same 2-2 scoreline was played out on the south coast in the replay, before Lampard's men came out on top in the subsequent penalty shootout to set up a Fourth Round visit to Accrington Stanley. After overcoming Reading 2-1 upon their return to Championship action, a late winner in the North West saw Derby get past Accrington and into the last 16. As Wales midfielder Joe Ledley left Pride Park during the January transfer window, Lampard made use of his contacts and brought in 38-year-old former England left-back Ashley Cole in a high-profile short-term deal.
Entering this month amongst the Play-Off sides, Derby started with a goalless draw at Preston. Securing a third win of the season over Hull by a 2-0 margin, The Rams then drew 1-1 with Ipswich at Portman Road. Lampard's side turned their attention back to Cup football last weekend, narrowly losing out away at Premier League Brighton & Hove Albion in the Fifth Round, despite Cole's first goal in a Derby shirt.