Football: Allison leaves Derby in the doldrums

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The Independent Online
Derby County. .3

Bristol City. .4

AFTER this extraordinary match - which featured a sent-off goalkeeper, a hat-trick, three goals in as many minutes and a farcical own goal - Derby supporters must look upon their club's promotion prospects the same way the rest of us view the economic recovery: we'll believe it when we see it.

Yesterday's shattering defeat, their fourth in five games, means the free-spending promotion favourites are bottom. What is more, they had held an early 2-0 advantage over a Bristol City side who were in danger of being overrun.

The lead became a 3-2 deficit following Steve Sutton's dismissal, but even then Paul Simpson's third goal brought Derby level, earning him Central/HTV's man of the match award. Only two minutes remained when Wayne Allison squeezed City's winner past the stand-in keeper, Paul Williams, leaving the losing manager Arthur Cox to comment: 'It must have been compulsive viewing at our expense.'

His opposite number, Denis Smith, wore an expression which owed more to relief than rapture. 'I still think Derby will finish near the top,' he said. 'If we finish above them we'll get promoted.'

City were without two strikers, Andrew Cole and Leroy Rosenior, but it was their defence which looked makeshift as Derby rapidly reduced them to a shambles. Simon Coleman's header was hoofed off the line in the second minute, but when Simpson arrived unmarked in the inside-left channel to score similar goals after 11 and 14 minutes, only one outcome seemed possible.

With hindsight, Simpson's miss from an almost identical chance in the 25th minute proved crucial. Keith Welch saved with his legs, and within 10 minutes the course of the match was altered. Following a long throw to Derby's near post, Gary Shelton hooked the ball goalwards through a ruck of players. As he tried to force it into the net, Sutton rugby-tackled him to ground.

Mr Harrison had no choice but to banish him, and Williams's first act between the posts was to retrieve Martin Scott's penalty from the net. For a while both sides 'got a bit emotional', as Cox told viewers at half-time, although Williams seemed serenely above it all. Two good saves had the crowd hailing him as 'England's No 1'.

Their good humour lasted until the 76th minute when Junior Bent, a pacy substitute, made it

2-2 from close range. Sixty seconds later, with City shaping to take a free-kick, Cox sent on a defender, Andy Comyn, who was still jogging towards Williams as the ball descended. A thrust of his forehead produced one of the fastest own goals ever. Almost immediately, however, Simpson rounded Welch to tie the scores at 3-3.

Derby would have settled for that, but Allison, rising to a cross by Jacki Dziekanowski, ended Williams's crash course in net- minding on a disillusioning note. Talking of which, Sutton may well be suspended for his own testimonial match, a real battle of the basement-dwellers between Derby and Forest a week today.

Derby County: Sutton; Kavanagh, Forsyth, Pembridge, Coleman, Wassall, Gabbiadini (Micklewhite, 52), Kitson, Johnson (Comyn, 77), Williams, Simpson.

Bristol City: Welch; Mitchell, Scott, Thompson, Bryant, Osman, Mellon, Dziekanowski, Allison, Harrison (Bent, h/t), Shelton. Substitute not used: Edwards.

Referee: P W Harrison (Heywood, Lancs).

Hereford finished their Third Division game against Northampton with seven players yesterday, after the Sheffield referee, Brian Coddington, sent off Andy Theodosiou, Greg Downs, David Titterton and Richard Jones in the last 20 minutes. The match ended 1-1.