Football: Double Wanchope

Derby County 3 Wanchope 3, 49, Rowett 67 Sheffield Wednesday 0 Attendance: 30,203
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The Independent Online
IT'S a generation since Derby's faithful were able to contemplate the need for passports and the chance to stock up on the duty free, but on this form a place in Europe next season is anything but a wild dream. Wednesday, shrugged aside as a virtual irrelevance for most of the 90 minutes, would have to agree. "They murdered us" was their manager Ron Atkinson's verdict.

The visitors should have been buried after the opening 15 minutes in which Paulo Wanchope scored the first of his two goals, Deon Burton hit Kevin Pressman's post and crossbar and Francesco Baiano curled the sweetest of strikes past the diving keeper, only to see the ball bounce back off the inside of the post. In-between all this, Pressman's foot got in the way of a Wanchope shot.

In their first real attack, County took the lead. In the third minute, Gary Rowett slid his through pass into Wanchope's stride and the Costa Rican lost John Newsome before driving his shot beyond Pressman into the far corner. The Wednesday keeper almost added to his own woes when he drove a clearance against the Derby striker but, to his relief, the rebound landed in the side-netting.

More goals, however, refused to come and Wednesday showed they could menace when Benito Carbone flicked a free-kick to Paolo Di Canio for his fellow Italian to unleash a vicious, swerving 25-yard volley that forced a great diving save from Mart Poom.

Whatever threat there might have been was snuffed out within a few minutes of the restart. Stefano Eranio's glorious back-heeled pass cleared the way for Burton's shot and Wanchope chipped the rebound into the net. It was all over then but, in the 67th minute, Newsome stretched to clear Burton's cross only to send it to Rowett, whose crisp drive from the edge of the box flew past Pressman for County's third.

It should have been much more as Derby finished as they started, with substitute Rory Delap hitting the a post again in the dying seconds. Even without Dean Sturridge, shaken after a car crash on Friday, County had plenty of fire power.

His replacement, Burton, fresh from three weeks with Jamaica, is an indication of the strength and depth that Jim Smith is accumulating at Pride Park Stadium.