Derby County 1
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 14,762
WITH SOUTHAMPTON'S Matt Le Tissier suspended and Derby's Paolo Wanchope still struggling to recapture the kind of form that has drawn rave reviews over the past two seasons, this fixture was in effect deprived of any prospect of enlightenment before a ball was kicked and it duly lived down to most people's expectations.
The fact that the referee Stephen Lodge still managed to wring six bookings out of such a limp encounter was impressive testament to a zealous nature. "Angry?" replied Dave Jones, the Southampton manager when asked how he felt about that and a couple of other decisions that went Derby's way, "that's an understatement. He was Bobbins - and if you need that to be translated it means he was crap."
There was little else for supporters of either side to get excited about even though victory, only their second in nine games, lifts Derby up to a comfortable eighth in the Premiership table. For Southampton it was a frustrating setback to their mini-revival although the debut performances of Hassan Kachloul, their Moroccan international recruit from the French club Metz, and the young central defender Gary Monk would have given Jones at least some cause for satisfaction.
Jim Smith, his opposite number, declared himself happy with the three points but little else, which seemed about right. Wanchope had the first real chance to bring the game to life but he dawdled with the goal at his mercy and Jason Dodd cleared.
The game was struggling to become anything more than fitful and a goal was desperately needed. Derby's record signing, Horacio Carbonari, obliged. Having just struck a free-kick from fully 40 yards into Paul Jones' midriff, he suddenly found himself with time to spare on the edge of the Saints area after Wanchope had failed to control Rory Delap's cross properly and the Argentine defender swept the ball in with a swing of the right boot.
Southampton, seeking to avoid only their second defeat in seven matches, dominated proceedings after the break but an equaliser proved elusive. Kachloul flashed two headers just over the bar, James Beattie wasted a better chance and Mark Hughes, pressed into service as a striker, produced a trademark overhead effort that had Mark Poom scrambling to save low to his right.
Southampton were unlucky with two appeals for penalties in the closing stages the first of which, when Jacob Laursen seemed to haul down Beattie, looked distinctly justified. But it was not their day and not really the spectators' either.