Derry targets return against Cardiff

SHAUN Derry maintains that the Championship will not be a two-horse race – although he is relieved to avoid suspension for next week’s clash with Cardiff.

The QPR midfielder must sit out Saturday’s home game against Preston after collecting his fifth yellow card of the season in last weekend’s 0-0 draw at Nottingham Forest.

But the one-match ban means Derry will be available again when Cardiff, who have replaced Rangers at the top of the table, come to Loftus Road a week later for what some have prematurely billed as a decisive battle.

“I’d be very surprised if one or two others didn’t come into the frame as well,” Derry told the Times. “There are a number of teams in the Championship capable of getting into those top three or four places.

“Teams like Portsmouth have shown they’re more than capable of stringing results together, so are Norwich and Swansea. It’s so important that we stick in and around the top places.

“We’ve set out to play a certain way against certain teams and when you’re getting success, collecting points home and away, it shows everybody that what we’re doing is working.

“Everybody who watches me knows the type of player I am – I’m going to collect suspensions along the way. But with the greatest respect to Preston I’d rather miss that game than the Cardiff game.

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“I’m disappointed to miss any game, but as it’s turned out I’m delighted to be available for selection against Cardiff. The Championship is a tough grind and you don’t get anywhere in November, it’s May when it counts.”

Derry’s suspension further depletes Rangers’ options for the visit of struggling Preston, with defenders Bradley Orr and Matthew Connolly still banned after their recent dismissals, against Reading and Portsmouth respectively.

But manager Neil Warnock’s hand has at least been strengthened in the midfield department by the welcome return of club captain Martin Rowlands as a late substitute at the City Ground.

Rowlands, 31, had not featured in a competitive fixture since September 2009, when he suffered his second cruciate ligament tear within a year while on duty for the Republic of Ireland against Montenegro.

And Derry paid tribute to his midfield colleague, saying: “When you mention QPR, you think of certain players and Martin obviously comes into that bracket. All he wants is for the club to be successful and be a part of it.

“He’s been champing at the bit just to play his part for a number of weeks, so it’s great having him back and I was delighted for him. He’s a very infectious character and one that the boys all respect.”

Rangers will be firm favourites against Preston, who dropped to the foot of the table after a 2-0 home defeat by Hull last weekend, but Jamie Mackie, who has filled in at right-back in recent games, says they can take nothing for granted.

“It’s such a level playing field in this division,” said Mackie. “Look at Crystal Palace and Bristol City – they were both in the bottom three but they gave us really tough games.”