Derby County Under-18s face their second Premier League North away fixture in as many weeks as they travel to Middlesbrough on Saturday (1pm kick-off).
They will do so in good spirits too after a comfortable 4-2 away win over West Bromwich Albion last weekend, inspired by the brilliant Tyree Wilson who netted two and assisted another.
That win was their first in just over a month, after the young Rams enjoyed a break over the festive period. After a false start in their return game at Pride Park Stadium and 2-1 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Youth Cup, the side soon got back to winning ways in the league.
This will be the second in a run of three straight league fixtures for Justin Walker’s side - a run that has only ever happened once this season, with the club’s commitments to various cup competitions including the UEFA Youth League.
The side have a long history with Middlesbrough, particularly in the last two years. In beating the side in the Premier League North on both occasions last season, Middlesbrough managed to better Derby in the semi-final of the Premier League Cup in the final minute of injury time.
This season, Derby earned their first win of the season against their upcoming opponents in an emphatic 4-1 victory. Bartosz Cybulski started the scoring before Archie Brown earned and scored a penalty to give Derby a first half lead. In the second half, they scored two more thanks to Festy Ebosele – now featuring for the under-23s – and Wilson.
Again, though, Walker endured disappointment when the two sides met in the cup. This time, they bettered Derby on their own stomping ground in a 2-1 win to once again throw Walker and his team out of the competition.
Walker can now only hope for an exact repeat of last season in which Middlesbrough prevailed in the cup but fell short on both meetings in the league.
It’s fair to say that Saturday’s hosts haven’t endured the best of starts to their new year. The side have lost both of their returning fixtures, scoring just once and conceding five in the process.
On their first game back, they were well beaten by a West Brom side that Derby bettered 4-2 just a week later. In their most recent outing, they were beaten 1-0 by Everton.
Derby have won half of their last six matches in competitions but remain, after Saturday’s encounter, the second-best defence in the entire division. A win could boost the side inside the top five. After a poor run, Middlesbrough are sat in 10th spot.
PLAYERS TO WATCH...
Tyree Wilson. The winger was on fire in the Rams’ last fixture and was hailed by his manager in his post-match interview. He also managed to score against Saturday’s opponents that last time he played against them earlier this season.
Walker just wants a little more consistency from his player and claimed that he needs to continue scoring more frequently week on week. It remains to be seen whether or not Wilson will fulfil his wishes, although he looks the most likely.
Harry Green has scored four goals in his last five games for Middlesbrough and looks to be their most likely goal scorer. Joseph Gibson is amongst the top scorers in the division with eight but is without a goal in their last four fixtures.
Either way, Walker claimed that his side are under no illusions as to the threat that Middlesbrough can and have already caused them. He will, though, be hoping that history repeats itself at Rockliffe Park on Saturday.