Football: Beck's header proves decisive

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 1 Derby County 2

MIKKEL BECK scored his first goal for Derby to give his side victory against their east Midlands rivals. Beck pounced on the hour, nodding home Lars Bohinen's corner at the near post as the Rams completed the double over Leicester, having beaten them 2-0 at Pride Park in September.

The Derby manager, Jim Smith, was full of praise for his pounds 1m purchase from Middlesbrough. "Sometimes strikers start off scoring straight away but he's not had the best of starts for us," Smith said, "but he's getting better every game. What I also like about him is he works very hard for the team."

The Danish striker's goal spared Stefano Eranio's blushes, the Italian having just seen Kasey Keller palm away his penalty after the Foxes' keeper was adjudged to have felled Dean Sturridge. But from the resulting corner, Beck rose highest to turn the ball home and the Leicester fans, who had been celebrating their escape moments earlier, were stunned into silence.

Sturridge, who had returned to the Derby side after missing Sunday's defeat at Arsenal with a knee injury, opened the scoring on 17 minutes with one of the most fortunate goals of his career before his untimely intervention enabled Leicester to claim an equaliser.

Emile Heskey lost possession inside the Leicester half but Keller looked to have Paulo Wanchope's weak long-range effort covered as it headed towards his left-hand corner. However, the ball struck Sturridge as he ran across the face of goal, and as Keller struggled to get back into position, the Derby man clipped his shot inside the far post.

It was only the striker's sixth goal of a season which has seen him struggle to command a regular first-team place. However, Deon Burton, Smith's first- choice frontman, injured his hamstring at the weekend and Sturridge grabbed his chance to impress.

But if Derby were fortuitous to take the lead, then they were equally unlucky to see Leicester level on 28 minutes. Steve Guppy's free-kick struck Sturridge on the arm as he broke away from the wall, but as the home crowd roared for a penalty the ball ricocheted to an unmarked Frank Sinclair, who fired an angled drive beyond Mart Poom.

Stefan Schnoor's 52nd-minute corner caused confusion in the Leicester area but the ball floated harmlessly wide. Lennon then went close with a fierce volley that drifted wide, while another long-range effort by the Northern Ireland international was gathered safely by Poom.

Leicester City: Keller; Elliott, Sinclair, Kaamark, Impey, Savage (Cottee, 67), Lennon, Izzet, Guppy, Marshall (Walsh, 80), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Arphexad (gk), Miller, Zagorakis.

Derby County: Poom; Prior, Laursen, Carbonari, Delap, Bohinen (Murray, 90), Eranio, Schnoor, Sturridge, Beck, Wanchope. Substitutes not used: Harper, Jackson, Robinson, Knight (gk).

Referee: N Barry (Scunthorpe).