Anxious wait for Mabbutt stand-in

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The Independent Online
Tottenham's manager, Gerry Francis, hopes Stuart Nethercott will be fit to play at the centre of defence against Derby tonight in the absence of the team captain, Gary Mabbutt.

Nethercott suffered a gashed shin, which required seven stitches, after he came on at Blackburn on Saturday when Mabbutt broke his left leg. He has trained this week and could play with protective padding over the wound.

Darren Anderton picked up an ankle injury on saturday but he is expected to be fit, while Dean Austin is still out after a knee operation.

Derby managed a 3-3 draw against with Leeds on Saturday after falling two goals behind, and their manager, Jim Smith, is determined that his defence learns from their escape. "We won't be able to give too many teams a 2-0 start in this league and get a draw," he said. "Defensively, we were a bit naive on Saturday and I also felt we could have used the ball better from the back."

The return of his Croatian sweeper, Igor Stimac, who missed the Leeds game with a back problem, will help Derby's cause. "We are going to need his quality and experience against a side like Spurs," he said.

Stimac was back in training yesterday and Smith said: "As long as there is no reaction, we anticipate that he will play."

The West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, has included the Portuguese attacker Paulo Futre in his depleted squad to face Coventry at Upton Park, although the former Milan player will probably start as one of the substitutes.

Peter Shilton is likely to be alongside Futre on the bench, although the primary duty of the 46-year-old former England international is to act as goalkeeping coach.

Seven players, including the Romanian pair, Florin Raducioiu and Ilie Dumitrescu, and striker Tony Cottee, are out of action as the Hammers attempt to bounce back from their opening day 2-0 defeat at Arsenal.

Coventry's manager, Ron Atkinson, will put striker Noel Whelan through a fitness test before finalising his plans. Whelan suffered an ankle injury against Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

If Whelan is ruled out Andy Ducros, who came on for Whelan in the 3- 0 defeat, will make his full home debut. Atkinson is also considering giving a debut to the Belgian full-back Reggie Genaux.