Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Saturday February 3 2007
With the Rams sitting six points clear at the top of the Championship, the club has had a number of outstanding contributors on the pitch. With Steve Howard scoring the goals, David Jones` inspirational runs from the midfield and with Dean Leacock and Darren Moore, both solid at the back the Rams look on course for a successful season.
But Rams coach Billy Davies has heaped praise on an unsung hero in the Rams side, someone who the fans may overlook but he has saved Derby on a number of occasions this season.
Stephan Bywater has been outstanding since his £375,000 move from West Ham United in August, and he has helped the Rams move to top spot in the Championship. He has made 22 League appearances, and kept 11 clean sheets and has only been on the losing side three times. Bywater was excellent in the recent victory at Southend United as well as the FA Cup fourth round success against Bristol Rovers.
Derby had two goalkeepers in Lee Camp and Lee Grant when Davies took over in the summer but he felt the squad needed a third and more experienced keeper and Davies is delighted with his form.
Davies said: "'Campy and Granty are both quite young and I felt it was important to add a bit more experience,' said Davies.
"Stephen gives us a presence and a voice behind the defence. He is a confident and assured lad.
'He is still relatively young himself and has a bit of work to do on his game, including the consistency of his kicking, but he works really hard and will get better.
'I think his mobility and reactions have improved, and his handling is very good.'
Davies has also saluted the work of goalkeeping coach Pete Williams in helping Bywater and the other keepers at the club.
Davies said: "I know the good work Pete did with Carlo Nash and Andy Lonergan at Preston,' said Davies.
'His contribution since joining Derby has been exceptional. He works hard and wears his heart on his sleeve.'
Derby have the second best defensive record in the division behind Stoke City and go into today`s clash at Southampton hoping to continue that record, and Bywater will be doing all he can to achieve it.
Date:Saturday February 3 2007
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