Derby County Under-18s will be hoping to conclude their 2018 with a win over Aston Villa in the Premier League Cup at Bodymoor Heath Training Ground.
Justin Walker’s side have been in fine form during the opening half of this season, winning 11 of their 13 matches in all competitions since the beginning of September.
They currently sit in third place in the Premier League – North table, just two points behind league leaders Everton. The Rams are also sat at the top Group C in this competition, two points clear of upcoming opponents Villa.
The latest of those victories saw them advance into the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup for a second consecutive season, having beaten Blackpool 2-1 at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday evening.
Kornell McDonald opened the scoring in Lancashire with his first goal of the season. After being picked out by Jason Knight’s pass, the wing-back turned past two defenders before firing his effort home.
Derby doubled their advantage early into the second half through Conor Dixon, who scored in the third round of the Youth Cup last season against Manchester United. After Morgan Whittaker’s effort was blocked by Will Avon, Dixon was on hand to follow up the rebound and smashed in his second of the season.
Hosts Blackpool did win a penalty shortly afterwards, but a superb diving save from Bradley Foster-Theniger kept out Nathan Shaw’s spot-kick, following Whittaker’s foul on Sean Graham inside the area.
The Tangerines did pull a goal back in the final moments of the match when Owen Watkinson made the most of a crowded situation to head Blackpool back into the cup tie late on, but it proved to be in vein.
Victory earlier this week was their fifth consecutive win in all competitions, a run they will hope to continue in the West Midlands against Villa.
They come up against a side in Aston Villa who are currently fourth in the Premier League – South table, and after a baron run of results, have beaten both Southampton and Swansea City 5-1 in their last two matches respectively.
Derby’s previous two matches in this competition have seen them beat both Brighton and Hove Albion and Sunderland. Villa meanwhile drew 1-1 away at Sunderland back in September but beat Brighton 2-1 on home soil last month.
A draw is all that Derby require to secure top spot in Group C and a guaranteed place in the quarter-finals of this competition. Kick-off at Bodymoor Heath Training Ground is at 11am.
Words by Jonty Colman