39 min: West Ham showing a bit more control here and carve out a couple of corners. Bird does well to clear the second one away, after a moment of panic in the box when the ball dropped.
37 min: I could listen to Ally McCoist say “superb” all day. The Scot is on co-commentary duty for ITV today and was describing a touch from Antonio, which was admittedly rather lovely.
35 min: Derby have had 54% of the possession but no shots on target, which is a good synopsis for how this game has gone so far. West Ham are lurking dangerously, ready to spring on the counter-attack.
33 min: An extremely tough chance for Collins, but at the end of a flowing Derby move. Forsyth finds Barkhuizen down the left, and the winger loops a cross towards his centre forward. Collins has to fetch it high out of the sky with his left foot – think Zidane in the 2002 Champions League final – but the Irishman can only shin it into the stands. A shame.
30 min: A bit of a lull in play. Aguerd, who impressed with Morocco at the World Cup, and Kehrer, who made the German squad, are struggling with the physicality of Collins.
27 min: For balance, here’s an email from Matthew Stephens in support of VAR.
“Don’t we focus wholly on the adjudicative aspects of VAR, forgetting its preventive power? VAR might be a horrible fun-sucker, but it has reduced the regular mauling of attacking players in penalty boxes and also helped to cut back (a little) on simulation.”
All of that may be true, but misses the very simple point that when playing football, it’s more important to be fun than to be correct.
25 min: The game is getting a little bitty. Derby won’t mind that. Both Barkhuizen and Collins win free-kicks for the home side in semi-dangerous areas, but Hourihane’s delivery hasn’t quite been on the money. Yet.
21 min: Korey Smith, who has been a real bright spark for Derby on the right, picks up a very questionable booking for a challenge on Palmieri, who made sure he got the referee’s attention with a few roly polies. The Italian is, and you’re gonna love this, fine to continue.
18 min: An email regarding VAR, which (I think we can all agree) can do one.
“Did anyone else notice Bowen’s quick glance to the assistant referee after he’d put the ball in the net,” emails David Wall. “How refreshing that, seeing they’d not raised their flag, he could celebrate safe in the knowledge that there wasn’t going to be some interminable VAR check with Pride Park not set up for it. Contrast that with Brighton yesterday when Mitoma’s wonderful winner and joyous celebrations were then held in suspends for the video refs to have a second look. I know it’s not going to happen but as well as being ineffective (how is it that Konate’s potential red card for denying a goal scoring opportunity couldn’t be reviewed because of the position on the pitch, and Thiago’s horrible foul wasn’t upgraded from yellow to red?), VAR sucks so much fun from what should be the best part of the game, scoring a goal.”
16 min: Hourihane, who is waaaaaaaaaaay too good for League One and still just 31, is beginning to get his foot on the ball for Derby in central midfield. West Ham have dropped slightly, with wing backs Johnson and Palmieri dropping in to make a back five. They seem content to sit back and counter-attack.
14 min: Collins is leading the line for Derby tonight and he got his first sniff of goal from a cross from the right. Smith whipped it in, and it was just too high for the Republic of Ireland international but had Ogbonna and Aréola scrambling. Replays show Collins was actually offside, but there are shoots of optimism there for Derby.
12 min: That was coming, to be honest. Derby look a little light in midfield, and had already been exposed on a couple of occasions before the goal.
GOAL! Derby 0-1 West Ham (Bowen 10)
Bowen doesn’t make the same mistake! This is a really clever goal, with Soucek playing a nifty one-two with Antonio, and the Czech midfielder nods down to Bowen, who fires into the corner from close range!
7 min: Another chance for West Ham! Derby again lose in midfield, and this time Bowen bears down on goal, but can only fire straight at Wildsmith. Derby sloppiness again goes unpunished.
5 min: Another email, this time from Bill Preston.
“I think this is going to be one of wild swings. West Ham are going to start strongly, and get a proper stomp on through the first half, but the Derby have decent strength, resolve, and a home tie. They’ll put together wily plays, coupled with thrilling heroics and steal this one.”
Remo Casale has also emailed to say that he fancies Derby. The home side have started well, hustling and bustling with a high press.
3 min: Bird is sloppy in midfield, losing out to Downes, and suddenly West Ham are on the counter-attack. Antonio carries the ball and has runners left and right but instead opts to shoot, firing disappointingly wide. A half-chance.
1 min: Derby so close to the opener. Barkhuizen latches onto a hopeful clearance, but beats the offside trap and sprints through on goal. The recovering pace of Johnson helps force him wide and the former Preston man chooses to cross rather than shoot. The ball pings around the area, before Soucek makes an important block on the edge of the D.
Peeeeeeep! And we’re underway in the east Midlands.
The players are out! Derby are decked in their famous white shirts and black shorts, while West Ham are in their claret and blue.
Our attention returns to Pride Park, where kick-off is just five minutes away.
We have a first email, from David Hopkins. It’s a good one.
“The very definition of a no lose game for the Rams tonight I think. It’s a year to the day since the fans held a march to the ground to highlight the very real threat of liquidation and one fewer founder members in the Football League. One dalliance with a delusional ‘crypto millionaire’ followed before David Clowes (who I trust will never be buying his own drink in Derby again) stepped in and saved the club. Derby will likely lose tonight but they’ll be playing again on Saturday and that’s good enough for me.”
The fifth-round draw is in!
A trip to Manchester United awaits for the winner of Derby and West Ham! Gulp …
The draw in full:
Southampton v Luton or Grimsby
Leicester City v Blackburn or Birmingham
Stoke City v Brighton
Wrexham or Sheffield United v Tottenham
Fulham or Sunderland v Leeds United
Bristol City v Manchester City
Manchester United v Derby or West Ham
Ipswich or Burnley v Sheffield Wednesday or Fleetwood Town
With the team news in, I’m temporarily hopping over to the liveblog for the FA Cup fifth-round draw. The balls are just about to be drawn. Join me here.
The hosts have plenty of Championship-standard players in their ranks but a real shame to lost McGoldrick to injury. He’s a class act, and kickstarted Derby’s comeback at Port Vale last week, scoring an 87th-minute equaliser, before Nathaniel Mendez-Laing grabbed the winner two minutes later.
West Ham are not quite at full-strength, with Rice and Pacqueta on the bench, but that’s a very tasty XI.
Teetering one point above the Premier League drop zone and with a gruelling Europa Conference League campaign to see out this spring, West Ham might view an FA Cup run with a little trepidation.
But then, the Hammers haven’t won a major trophy in over 40 years. With nine Premier League teams already out of the FA Cup (including Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle), and Declan Rice probably offski in the summer, there is a real opportunity here for a strong West Ham side (on paper at least) to go deep in the competition. And with the fifth-round draw taking place before kick-off, they will even know who their potential opponents could be in the sixth-round.
With plenty of time for his XI to recover before Saturday’s league trip to Newcastle, there will be plenty of West Ham fans hoping that David Moyes fields a strong starting line-up tonight.
Third-tier Derby County might not seem like the stiffest task for Moyes and co, but the League One side have not lost since October (!) and have won their last six games on the bounce. Pride Park, under the lights, will be rocking tonight.
Kick-off: 7.45pm GMT.