Writer: Peter Simcox
Date:Sunday February 4 2007
St Mary's Stadium
3rd February 2007
Rams riding high as Howard sinks Saints
Southampton 0 Derby 1
Steve Howard`s 13th goal of the season maintained the Rams six-point lead at the top of the Coca-Cola Championship table - but it required a much-improved second-half performance to achieve this.
The Rams were completely dominated in the first period at St Mary`s Stadium, but Derby weathered the storm and extended their winning sequence in all competitions to eight games, the last five by 1-0 with Howard the match-winner in three of them.
Tyrone Mears was the only one of Billy Davies's January transfer deadline signings to be included in the squad, and he was among the substitutes, as was Gary Teale - whose place was taken by Bob Malcolm in the only change to the side that beat Burnley on Tuesday night. The Saints included former Derby duo Inigo Idiakez and Grzegorz Rasiak in their starting line-up, and gave their new on-loan Polish striker Marek Saganowski his debut and he made an instant impression, forcing Stephen Bywater into a fine save from the first attack of the match.
He was a hand full for the Rams defence and two minutes later the 28-year-old, borrowed from French club Troyes, fired over as the Saints enjoyed much of the early stages. The 3,000 Rams fan made the atmosphere in the stadium electric, but they looked on in shock as the Saints dominanted the league leaders.
Gareth Bale, a target of a number of Premier clubs, made a storming run down the left that earned the game's first corner. Skacel whipped in the corner across goal, where both Saganowski and Rasiak just needed to get a touch to poke it home. The ball beat everyone but bounced off the far post and along the line before being cleared to safety.
Rasiak, the leagues top goal scorer, again came close in the 14th minute when he capitalised on a loose ball just outside the Derby box and took a touch to steady himself, but he fired wide of the target with only Bywater to beat, the Rams fans let him know what they thought.
The Rams were hanging on and Rasiak was off target again moments later and their Colombian midfielder Jhon Viafara,s shot was pushed on to the crossbar by the alert Stephen Bywater and Rudi Skacel failed to convert the rebound.
The Rams looked shell-shocked, and Billy Davies made a change after 35 minutes, he sent on Gary Teale in place of Bob Malcolm to introduce more width, and it had an immediate impact, Stephen Pearson,s long-range shot was wide. In years gone by the Rams would have buckled under the pressure, but Davies` side these days are made of stronger stuff, and they soaked up the Saints pressure. Rams keeper Bywater produced another good block to deny Rasiak as half time approached, and the whistle blew with Derby relieved to still be on level terms.
It was a different Rams side in the second half and Pearson`s darting runs gave Derby the edge and Fagan and Teale also looked dangerous. Fagan fired wide, and then picked up an unnecessary yellow card for kicking the ball away, and Davies showed his displeasure by kicking a water bottle along the touch line. It wasn`t a surprise when Fagan was replaced by Giles Barnes on 53 minutes.
Derby went close in the 69th minute after some trickery down the left by Barnes, and his cross eventually found Pearson whos chip was over the crossbar. The young Scottish midfielder should have opened the scoring on 71 minutes. A delightful move involving Barnes and David Jones combined on the right for Jones to float a lovely ball over and found Howard who rose and headed back across goal to Pearson, who somehow missed from seven-yards with the goal at his mercy.
There were chances at both ends in the closing stages, Bale shot from 20-yeards but Bywater saved, and at the other end Jones curled a 25-yard fee-kick wide of the target.
It looked like the Rams would hang on for a share of the spoils, but Howard had other ideas, and with nine minutes to go he broke the deadlock. Jones crossed into the six-yard box and Howard gleefully drove it into the roof of his net to earn Derby's eighth successive victory and his 14th goal of the season, and send the Rams travelling supporters into raptures.
Southampton - GK Davis, Baird, Lundekvam, Pele, Bale, Wright, Idiakez, Viafara, Skacel, Rasiak (Dyer 77), Saganowski.
Subs not used: Bialkowski, Ostlund.
Derby - GK Bywater, Edworthy, Leacock, Moore, Camara, Oakley (Mears 84), Pearson, Jones, Malcolm (Teale 35), Fagan (Barnes 53), Howard.
Subs not used: M Johnson, Lupoli, Mears.
Referee; J Moss, West Yorkshire
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Date:Sunday February 4 2007
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