Bradley Johnson has urged Derby County’s supporters to get Pride Park Stadium rocking for Sunday’s top-six showdown with Cardiff City.
Derby sit fifth the Sky Bet Championship table with nine games left to play while Cardiff, who have been in fine form of late after racking up seven wins in a row, occupy second place.
The two sides will go head-to-head on Sunday lunchtime (12pm kick-off) at Pride Park Stadium in what promises to be an exciting encounter.
Ticket prices have been reduced to £10 for home supporters in all areas of the ground and, with Cardiff set to bring a strong away following of over 2,000 fans, a big-game atmosphere is expected.
Johnson says the Derby fans right across Pride Park can play a key role as the side look to return to winning ways, following a run of five draws and two defeats from their last seven matches.
He told RamsTV: “It’s a big game on Sunday.
“I would say to the fans, like they have done all year, to get right behind us.
“They can be a massive push for us at home and when the place is rocking it’s fantastic.
“We want them right behind us to try and help us get over the line and get the three points we want on Sunday.”
Cardiff sit second in the table behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers with nine games left to play.
Neil Warnock’s men are 11 games unbeaten and their recent winning run has strengthened their grip on an automatic promotion spot.
Derby and Cardiff played out a 0-0 draw in the Welsh capital earlier in the season, but the Rams could have claimed all three points as Craig Forsyth hit the woodwork and David Nugent was denied late on.
Sixty-nine-year-old Warnock, a serial promotion-winner from the Championship, has revived Cardiff’s fortunes since taking charge in the early months of last season when they were at the wrong end of the table.
Johnson feels the Bluebirds are a strong and effective side with the ability to grind results out and he’s looking forward to the top-six clash on Sunday lunchtime.
“It was a good point for us on the road that day,” said Johnson when looking back on the goalless draw back in September.
“We know what to expect from Cardiff; they are a strong and direct side and I am sure they will be the same at the weekend.
“It was a good contest earlier in the season and we had a few chances towards the end to win it. We can’t concentrate on what we did back in September, we can only look forward to Sunday.
“They have a proven manager in Neil Warnock, especially in this league. He has had a terrific career in management and has got several promotions under his belt as well. He gets his teams playing and some people might not think it is pretty football, but it is effective and you need to just look at Cardiff now and where they are.”
Johnson, a promotion-winner with Norwich City via the play-offs back in 2015, added: “It’s the results what matter and they are grinding them out. That’s what we want to do, get those positive results to keep us in the top six.
“We’ve changed our way of playing this year. We’ve gone away and ground results out and also had matches where we’ve passed the opposition off the pitch and got the right outcome. We’ve mixed up our game this season and we’ll have to do that again on Sunday to match Cardiff.”
Johnson believes that if the Rams can end Cardiff’s strong run and claim all three points, it will set Gary Rowett’s side up well when they return to action at the end of the month following the international break.
The midfielder admits Derby have been drawing too many games recently, but insists the fact that the side rarely taste defeat should also come into account too.
In fact, the Rams have only lost two of their last 18 league fixtures and remain very much in the thick of the promotion race – but have just been on the wrong end of the fine margins between winning games and not in the Championship.
He said: “It’s frustrating to be on the wrong end of the fine margins after getting plenty of wins earlier in the season. Everyone talks about us not winning for a while but we’ve only lost two games in 18 games; that’s not bad.
“We’ve been picking up draws, too many really. It’s frustrating because we know those results could easily have been wins. The luck hasn’t been on our side lately but we’re still in a good position in the league with nine games left.
“We have nine massive games left to get to where we want to be. We haven’t gone on a losing run and we haven’t lost back-to-back league games all season. When we have lost we have shown a reaction.
“A win on Sunday, we hope, could be a great kick-start for when we come back following the international break.”