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03/04: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 16/03/04, 7.45pm
Derby County
Programme notes
By Ray Lewington

Tonight is a 'must-win' game for us.

I could try and dress the same phrase up in words which aren't quite so stark but, let's be realistic, we're at home against a team two points behind us. It's not a 'nice' thing to win this evening, it's a necessity.

That said, then comes the problem of not loading more and more pressure on players who already fully understand the seriousness of the situation. We're going to get at them from the off and be as positive as we possibly can.

At home, the biggest factor we have to overcome is the pitch. That affects our game. Not you, the fans, you've been really, really good and more than kind towards me, Terry and the players.

By the way, in case you're feeling bad about booing the substitution of Scotty for Cooky on Saturday, don't. I'll accept the boos for the sub I made on Saturday - but whatever you do, stick right with the lads for me.

I can understand the disappointment at Scotty coming off. Even when he's not playing well, I feel in my own mind - as I'm sure you do in the stands - that he's still our most likely scorer. He has an effect on people that makes them really want him to do well. I'm sure that's why you booed and, to some degree, he has that effect on me. Even when he's not scoring, and he hasn't for a while, you still feel he might be the man to pop up with something. I was reluctant to take him off but I made the change with the intention of freshening things up as we looked for an equaliser.

I can only remember one other loud boo here before about a substitution, and that's when I took Pennant off against Portsmouth - so I feel you've been pretty fair to me as well as the players.

Saturday was a poor game to watch, there's no getting away from it. We weren't great and they weren't much better. But I imagine, given the time of the season, there was probably another eight or nine of those around Division One - what matters eventually? Well, of course, it's the result regardless of how it came about.

We'll change the way we've been playing for tonight's game but I'm not going to reveal on these pages exactly how, as I'll make the assumption George Burley and his staff might have a glance at what I'm saying before the game!

Whatever we do, let me assure you we'll be up for it, we'll be positive and we won't hide - we just will not hide. We can't afford to, we must stand up and be counted.

You want to be entertained and, to my mind - and yours, I'm sure - that means goal-mouth action. There's not been a lot of that lately, particularly in the last three games.

More chances logically leads to more goals and that's the one big change we'll be looking for from the players tonight.

As long as the lads keep believing, me and my staff keep believing in them and you, our loyal supporters, are with us we will be fine. I promise you, we will.

Just saying it isn't enough, I accept that. But I challenge you to find anyone who got out of difficulties without believing they could do it. That's where it starts; before a game, on the training pitches, on the way to a match. Then it comes to life on the pitch and we've got to make it happen for ourselves this evening - and by that I mean everyone in this ground who wants Watford to win tonight.

Derby will thinking exactly the same things tonight. They will feel they can't lose. They're the away side, not expected to get anything so any points are a bonus.

So what have we got that could can undeniably be an advantage to our players. Well, that's obvious. There'll be about 11,000 answers to that this evening. It's you guys in the stands. The one big factor that can get this place rocking from before kick-off. Are you with us? Do you want us to win? Of course you do.

So I'm calling on you tonight to put all the defeats, all the disappointments from this season to the back of your mind.

Individually, a squad of players, a set of coaching staff, a group of office staff and thousands of fans don't immediately strike you as one unit. But when these groups of people unite together behind a single cause - and we all know what that is, without a doubt - then who knows what can be achieved.

I'll be at the edge of my technical area, you'll be on the edge of your seats. With your backing, there'll be plenty of reasons to punch the air in delight tonight.

Hold nothing back, just give it everything you've got - just as the players will be.

Best wishes,
Ray Lewington

These programme notes are reproduced from the official programme, with kind permission from the club. Thanks to Richard Walker for sending them to us.