All eyes will be on encounters at Bristol City and Middlesbrough this weekend as the bottom four teams are all in action against each other. Presently just two points separate Crystal Palace, who travel to the Riverside, in bottom spot and Preston North End, who are away to Bristol City, in 21st so the foot of the table could have a very different look to it come 4.45pm on Saturday.
Bristol City won away at Boro last weekend to extend their recent run to three games without defeat and Manager Keith Millen is calling on his players to turn Ashton Gate into the fortress it once was.
He told www.bcfc.co.uk: "Over the years we've made Ashton Gate an intimidating place, a tough one for opposition teams to come to.
"We need to get on the front foot early on against Preston to create the right atmosphere - then the fans will respond again.
"If you're going to do anything in the league you need to have a good home record."
The Lilywhites won only once in the whole of October and despite their current position, Sean St Ledger believes this is not the time to panic.
"On paper we have got a very good team," St Ledger told www.pnefc.net. "We just need everyone to stick with us and it will come. We had a disappointing result last Saturday which was a massive game and there is another big one this Saturday."
"It is a tough place to go down to, a big journey for us and the away fans but we know that we have got great support."
Sitting just two points below them both in the table are Middlesbrough and Palace and they will understandably be hoping that a big win, coupled with a draw in the other game, could see one of them climb out of the relegation zone.
Having lost six of their last seven games Boro will need a dramatic change in their fortunes if that is to happen for them but new Manager Tony Mowbray remains confident: "It's a dangerous game for us," he explained to the Evening Gazette. "Palace have some very talented young players and we have to be at our best.
"If we play in the same way we did in the first half against Bristol City, then hopefully we will do it."
Palace have won just two games in the last two months and last season's top scorer Darren Ambrose, who returned last week after an 11 week absence, believes it is now time to stand up and be counted.
"We are not the worst team in this division - we are not the best but we are not the worst," he commented to the Croydon Guardian. "It's now down to us experienced players and the Manager and the staff.
"We need to go out and show a bit more commitment and desire and if we approach teams in that way we have the ability to play teams off the park."
Hull City may be looking nervously over their shoulders for results in those matches if things don't go to plan in their local derby with Scunthorpe United. The Tigers are only a point better off than Preston in 20th position but know a win over the Iron would draw them level on points with the 16th placed side.
Hull Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare, who had a brief stint with Scunthorpe as a player, is calling on the crowd at the KC Stadium to play their part and inspire the home side to what would be only their fourth win this season.
"It's a home game and we need points on the board at this stage," commented Shakespeare on www.hullcityafc.net. "It's a local derby with a big crowd and there'll be a good atmosphere, so it's something to look forward to.
"Our fans have been terrific so far for us at home and they know that their support is well needed. Their vocal support will get behind the team and hopefully help us to three points."
So far this season Scunthorpe have saved their better performances for the road and boast one of the best records in the division, having won four times away from Glanford Park.
Speaking ahead of the Humber derby Ian Baraclough told www.scunthorpe-united.co.uk: "Hull can expect a game where we'll pretty much be in their faces and we will give them a tough game.
"Having looked at Hull's results you would think they've been having a poor time of it. They have quality in abundance in their squad though and can't be taken lightly."
ON THE BOX
The first of the weekend's two televised games sees Derby County play Portsmouth. The Rams were 4-1 winners over Watford last week, their sixth success of the season, and defender Dean Moxey believes the side's slow start to the season may actually be having a positive effect on their approach now the tide has changed.
He explained to www.dcfc.co.uk: "When we weren't winning earlier in the season we said we would all stick together, and that is the same attitude now we're winning games.
"We just want to take it one game at a time; it would be nice to make it five wins from five at home but we won't get ahead of ourselves because we know it will be difficult against Portsmouth."
Pompey will present a tougher test for the Rams than some of their recent conquests, unbeaten in their last three away games, defender Greg Halford has high hopes Portsmouth can climb above their hosts in the table with victory at Pride Park.
Speaking to www.portsmouthfc.co.uk, the Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee said: "We're going there to collect three points and I firmly believe that we can do that.
"We have to go and take the game to them and with the team we've got there's no reason why we can't win.
"The run we're on is amazing but we have to keep pushing on and try to climb into the top six. That's where we want to be."
Leaders Cardiff City will have to be at their best to see off third placed Swansea City in the second local derby of the weekend. Craig Bellamy is preparing himself for his first taste of the South Wales derby and he cannot wait.
"It is a little bit different to other derby fixtures I've played in because I've grown-up with this one and I know what it's all about," the striker told www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk.
"You have to respect just how much this game means to the people of Cardiff and Swansea, but ultimately it's a game between two teams who are doing very well in the division.
"I don't think there's that much pressure on either team, so it should make for a good game."
If Cardiff are to be successful on Sunday, they'll need to stop one of the division's hottest properties, something only four teams have managed to do this season. Scott Sinclair is in a rich vein of form at the moment, he has 11 goals in 11 games and the striker, like Bellamy, can't wait to make his mark in the encounter.
The former Chelsea trainee told www.swanseacity.net: "I haven't really got much experience of a derby and this is one of the biggest derbies in this league and it would be nice to play in.
"I'm sure it will be great for the fans to watch and hopefully we can get the three points and then go home."
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