Prospect of a clash with City slickers gives young Rams a big incentive
DARREN Wassall has told his Derby County side they have a "massive incentive" to win tonight's FA Youth Cup fourth round clash against Ipswich Town.
The Rams' under-18 side take on their East Anglian counterparts at Pride Park Stadium this evening (7pm).
The prize for the winner is a home tie against Premier League giants Manchester City.
"We couldn't have asked for more than another home draw after our third round win against Gateshead," said Academy manager Wassall.
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"And we couldn't ask for more of an incentive to get to the next round, with Manchester City awaiting the winners.
"Man City's first team are the Premier League champions and the club are able to buy the best young talent around.
"If we can get through, it will be a great opportunity to pit our wits against them and see how we get on.
"It's a massive incentive for us – but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves."
Two years ago, Derby had the chance to meet Liverpool at Anfield in the same competition, only to lose at home to Southend United.
"The players will naturally have one eye on that draw but we've got the make sure they remain focused on the job in hand," said Wassall.
"If we can look after that part of it, then we will get the prize of playing Man City at home, which would be a great occasion for everybody concerned."
Derby's 4-0 win over non-League Gateshead in December was the team's first win of the season, having endured a tough first half of the season in the newly-formed Under-18 Professional Development League Two North.
Since then, the Rams have picked up their first league win, beating Coventry City 2-1 in their first match of 2013.
"The performances had been decent before the Gateshead match but it was nice to get that first competitive victory under our belts, for the players' confidence," said Wassall.
"After that, we beat Man City in the friendly before Christmas and then won 2-1 in the league against Coventry.
"So the lads are full of confidence – playing well and training well – and, hopefully, they can take that form into the Ipswich game."
Ipswich, who were 1-0 winners at Bristol City in the previous round, play in the Under-18 PDL Two South, where they have won five, lost five and drawn two so far this term.
Managed by Derbyshire-born former England international Russell Osman, the team have been preparing for tonight's game at St George's Park near Burton.
"Ipswich have, over the years, produced some good young players from their academy," said Wassall.
"We played them a couple of years ago and it was a really good, competitive game.
"Russell Osman likes his team to play football and we're expecting a really tough game.
"We had them watched last week against Charlton and we've got a couple of videos of them, so we're certainly well prepared for what they've got to throw at us."
Derby are still without the injured Sam Berry (knee) but Wassall should be able to pick from the same squad that saw off Gateshead, including 16-year-old striker Mason Bennett.
The Rams are hopeful of getting the game on, despite the snowy conditions.
"I know the weather is not good but it would be great to get as many people down as possible," said Wassall. "It would be a great fillip for the players.
"Playing at Pride Park is the next stage in their development and they have to be able to cope with it.
"The experience of playing there in the previous round will have done them no harm at all.
"They have now experienced playing in a big stadium – I know there won't be 30,000 like there was at the Forest game on Saturday – but it will certainly help them.
"The more they play on there, the better."
Season ticket holders from both clubs can get in free tonight. Otherwise, admission is £3 for adults and £2 for concessions.