Derby on the brink of a frightening divide

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Derby County 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Derby's chairman and benefactor, Lionel Pickering, has spent a fortune endeavouring to revive the good times at the Baseball Ground and now that they are virtually upon them, it has to be said that the poor man (for that is what he will surely become) will have to fork out a few more million to sustain them.

Jack Walker's funding did not cease once Blackburn arrived in the big time, in fact, it had barely begun. And while Derby's arrival there in May looks a safe bet, it is an even safer one that they will be immediately back whence they have come without further serious investment.

The gulf in class between the Premiership and the First Division could not have been more aptly illustrated both here and last Wednesday at Molineux where Wolves were patently second best to Spurs in an FA Cup replay. Of course, it is early days in the rebuilding of Wolves, even if Mark McGhee, their manager, has not given up hope of reaching the play-offs. For the leaders, Derby, the Premiership is almost a reality, a frightening one, if the truth be known, for old Bald Eagle, who has flown that way before.

Jim Smith is enjoying his run of success - 14 games without defeat - while he can but it must have been of some concern for him to see Derby struggle to open up a defence still without its prized defender, Dean Richards. Marco Gabbiadini, of course, has failed before at the highest level, and managed only one shot of note here.

At least there was the budding promise of youth in the shape of Dean Sturridge, younger brother of Stoke's Simon, and if his own goalscoring opportunity was also curtailed it was not difficult to see how this little busybody has been so prolific this season. It will be a testimony of Derby's ambition if they can hold on to him, likewise Wolves with Richards.

In the latter's absence, John de Wolf, now playing without a knee brace, was the leader of the pack, only once slipping up when Gabbiadini craftily pulled him back by his ponytail. How better Graham Taylor might have fared had he not been denied the services of the Dutchman.

Still, the passing style which McGhee has indoctrinated at Molineux, is already showing a return, this being their sixth game without defeat since he kicked off on losing note against Port Vale.

Derby County (1-2-4-1-2): Hoult; Stimac; Yates, Rowett; Carsley, Van Der Laan, D Powell, C Powell; Willems; Gabbiadini, Sturridge. Substitutes not used: Simpson, Wassall, Flynn.

Wolverhamton Wanderers (1-2-5-2): Stowell; De Wolfe; Young, Emblen; Atkins, Thompson, Osborn, Ferguson, Venus; Bull, Goodman. Substitutes not used: Foley, Rankine, Daley.

Referee: R Heilbron (Durham).

Bookings: Derby: Stimac, Van Der Laan.

Man of the match: De Wolf. Attendance: 17,460.