Derby County v Middlesbrough: Pulis remains wary of struggling Rams

MIDDLESBROUGH manager Tony Pulis insists he is reading little into Derby County's form slide.

Patrick Bamford: Forced to miss out.
Patrick Bamford: Forced to miss out.

Fifth-placed Boro head into today’s game with the Rams on the back of a key 2-1 win over play-off rivals Bristol City last weekend and face the third instalment in a quartet of games against top-six rivals, with a visit to Derby followed by next week’s televised home game with Millwall.

The Rams dropped out of the play-offs following a shock 3-1 loss at local rivals Burton last weekend and have won just twice in 12 matches since early February, having been as high as second at the end of 2017.

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But given a fluctuating play-off race in which the toing and froing has been the only constant, Pulis is not taking any stock in Derby’s recent statistics.

Pulis, without striker Patrick Bamford this afternoon, said: “Derby have been up there all season. They have very experienced players, Gary Rowett has done a great job to keep it going.

“Everything is not fixed in life, especially football, hopefully last week will give them the confidence to get a result. There are so many variables, we just hope the gods are smiling on us.

“In this league, you have to turn up every week, if you do not turn up you won’t get results.

“Two clubs have beaten Derby recently and they turned up and maybe Derby did not – but they have top players and it will be a difficult game.”

Bamford’s absence on medical advice after being stretchered off with concussion in last weekend’s game, means that former Nottingham Forest striker Britt Assombalonga will be handed a rare start back in the East Midlands under Pulis after being confirmed to largely bench duties since early February.

Pulis added: “Patrick will not make it. I don’t think we will take that risk. Having said that, it gives Britt the opportunity to play.”