The manager Paul Jewell's plea for bottom-of-the-table Derby to show some backbone in their relegation fight looks likely to fall on deaf ears, with even their captain seemingly ready to throw in the towel.
Derby's home defeat to Blackburn on Sunday, when they missed a penalty at 1-0 up, leaves Jewell's team 10 points from safety and the captain, Matt Oakley, believes their fate will be sealed tonight if they fail to win at Bolton.
"Games like these are the kind we can win to give us a little bit of hope but we had a chance to go 2-0 in front against Blackburn, didn't take it and got punished," he said. "We are so far behind now that even if we won three on the spin we'd still be bottom. If we don't beat Bolton, then the season's over for me."
Jewell is unlikely to be happy with such comments. He was critical of his players following Sunday's reverse, accusing them of being too quick to accept defeat. "I understand why, because the confidence is fragile, but we have got to do better than that," he said. Once we missed the penalty you could see shoulders drop when we should have been trying even harder to get a result. We accept things too readily. If things don't go our way, we haven't got enough real men out there."
Steve Howard, whose missed penalty sparked Sunday's collapse, will play no further part in Derby's campaign. The 31-year-old striker, who scored 16 goals to help the Pride Park club win promotion last season but has managed only one this term, yesterday agreed a three-and-a-half year deal to join Leicester City.
Tonight Jewell will not be helped by an injury list that includes Dean Leacock and Michael Johnson, who are both doubtful. For Bolton, the full-back Nicky Hunt remains doubtful with a foot injury.Reuse content