Football: Martin's short shrift

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The Independent Online
West Ham United. . .1

Derby County. . . . 1

THE only thing rich about this First Division game at Upton Park yesterday was Derby County. The 11,493 gate - West Ham's worst in the League for 35 years - was poor, the creative play often poorer except when Martin Allen and Peter Butler were driving the Hammers forward. The only surprise was that a Bermondsey man needed two reminders over the Tannoy to leave the ground as his wife had gone into labour.

Laboured summed up much of the first half, in which Derby, bottom of the table despite the pounds 9m spent by Arthur Cox, took the lead fortuitously through an own goal by Ludek Miklosko, the Hammers' keeper. Billy Bonds' more enterprising side equalised in the second half through Trevor Morley, his fourth goal in three games.

The draw lifts West Ham into fifth place and Bonds took heart from the spirit his team had shown, particularly in defence where Alvin Martin and Steve Potts kept County's costly strike-force under control. Martin may be long in the tooth and short on top but he is in commanding form. Quick in the tackle and invincible in the air, the 34-year-old was rightly voted man of the match by ITV's viewers.

Before Martin stole the show, all eyes had been on Craig Short - at pounds 2.5m Britain's joint most expensive defender. County's towering stopper had a steady debut, bringing some much needed strength to Derby's back-line. Under the tutelage of Roy McFarland, Cox's No 2, Short should develop well.

He needed to be on his toes yesterday. West Ham started confidently, Martin Allen showing his eye for goal in the fifth minute with an early range-finder, which went wide. Two minutes later, Morley had an excellent opportunity to open the scoring when Short misdirected a clearance header, but his snap shot was too high to trouble the Derby keeper, Martin Taylor.

West Ham, directed by the busy Butler and Martin Allen, continued to push forward, a praiseworthy approach which did leave them exposed to breakaways. After 33 minutes, Paul Simpson, Derby's leading scorer, ran from the halfway line and shot low at Miklosko. The Czech let the ball slip under him and when Mitchell Thomas tried to clear, his big hoof merely rebounded off Miklosko and into the net.

West Ham restored some sanity to the scoreline a minute into the second half. Mark Robson's inswinging corner from the right was flicked on by Thomas, Martin knocked the ball back to Kevin Keen who headed through for Morley to swivel and beat Taylor.

West Ham United: Miklosko; Breacker, Thomas, Potts, Martin, M Allen, Robson (Parris, 82), Butler, Morley, C Allen, Keen. Substitute not used: Small.

Derby County: Taylor; Comyn, Forsyth, Short, Wassall, Pembridge, Johnson, Kitson, Gabbiadini (Sturridge, 76), Williams (Coleman, 57), Simpson.

Referee: I Hemley (Ampthill, Beds).