Selection headaches for Cook ahead of Derby trip

Sam Clucas
Sam Clucas

Paul Cook will be using today’s training to look closely at his players to determine the eleven he puts out to make the short trip down the A61 tomorrow.

Spireites travel to Premier League-chasing Derby County in only their second FA Cup fourth round appearance in 60 years; the last time they played at this stage, a Kevin Davies hat-trick saw off Bolton Wanderers, Championship pace setters, at Burnden Park on the way to a memorable semi-final battle with Middlesbrough.

Derby, who are bound to make changes from the side that lost at home to neighbours Nottingham Forest last weekend, will prove to be a tough nut to crack regardless of their side.

Cook will not want to surrender midfield possession so it seems likely that he’ll revert to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation after several weeks of 4-4-2.

That means that striker Armand Gnanduillet is likely to miss out along with the injured Gary Roberts (hamstring) meaning there are potentially two spots up for grabs. Assuming Eoin Doyle will play alone up front with Sam Morsy and Jimmy Ryan as the two holding midfielders, Cook’s biggest selection headache will be for his three attacking midfield slots.

In-form Sam Clucas is nailed on for one of the positions meaning, as Romy Boco has departed to play in India, Jay O’Shea and Dan Gardner look most likely to come in.

Ollie Banks and Ritchie Humphreys look likely to have to settle for a place on the bench along with young winger Gboly Ariyibi.

O’Shea’s best position is undoubtedly behind the striker in the ‘hole’ but that’s a role he rarely gets to play, so he’ll relish the opportunity to show his prowess in front of a close on 30,000 crowd.

That will mean Gardner will be able to hug the right touchline and attempt to convert his recent impressive cameo appearances off the bench into 90 minutes of the sort of wizardry he’s capable of on his day.

If Cook wants a little more solidity and a little less creativity in the middle of the park, he could elect to recall Ian Evatt to defence and move Sam Hird to holding midfield allowing Ryan to push on; Gardner or O’Shea would miss out in that case.

Full backs Tendayi Darikwa and Dan Jones plus centre back Charlie Raglan are certain starters, training injury or illness apart, as is keeper Tommy Lee, who in his only previous big FA Cup game in 2007 was sent off at Chelsea for upending Andrei Shevchenko whilst playing for Macclesfield Town, who went on to lose 6-1.