DERBY have been trying to ensure that an old enemy of the Owls is fit for tomorrow’s clash at Hillsborough.
Former Sheffield United and Chesterfield striker Jamie Ward was pulled out of the Northern Ireland squad for this week’s friendly in Malta.
But he is expected to play tomorrow - looking for his first goal against the Owls since the Bramall Lane derby in September, 2009.
He put the Blades ahead in the seventh minute of that Friday-night, televised contest, and they led 3-0 at half time; then a second-half fightback lifted Wednesday to 3-2 and close to getting a point.
The 26-year-old striker in total netted 11 goals for United and, before that, 29 for Chesterfield,
He left Bramall Lane for Pride Park in 2011, initially on loan then in a full transfer in the summer of that year.
Ward also played in the 2-2 draw with Wednesday in the first match of this season, and was taken off in the 82nd minute.
He got back in the Rams teams recently after being out for three months with a hamstring injury, and scored in last week’s 3-0 home win against Huddersfield.
“We must remember Jamie has only been back a few weeks,” said manager Nigel Clough.
“He felt his hamstring and back tightening by half-time against Huddersfield and that is why he came off with 10 minutes to go.
“He has played in a few games in a short space of time and there was a chance of it going again, so rather than him flying and travelling to Malta, everybody felt it was in Jamie’s best interests he stayed here.
“When you see the number of our players who joined up with their national squads this week, we don’t pull players out frivolously.”
Derby had nine members of their squad on international duty. There were full Republic of Ireland debuts for striker Connor Sammon, who played for the whole of the 2-0 win against Poland in Dublin, centre half Richard Keogh and midfielder Jeff Hendrick, who both went on as a subs.
Rams manager Nigel Clough has been unable to plan for the Hillsborough match perhaps as thoroughly as he would like, but he insists there should be no detrimental effect from having so many players away from club training for most of the week.
“It’s actually a situation we’ve not been in before, although in one way we’re not complaining and we’ve coped with it the best we can,” he said.
“We know how the Premier League managers feel now, talking about their players being away all week in the lead-up to a game – but given the type of characters and lads we have here, it won’t be a big issue and we’ll deal with it.”
Derby coach Andy Garner has called on on the team to build on last week’s win.