Football: McFarland's baptism of fire

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The Independent Online
Derby County. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

West Bromwich Albion. . . . . . . . . . . .3

AS BAPTISMS go, the televised Midlands showdown that launched Roy McFarland's promotion to manager at Derby can be listed among the more remarkable. An extraordinary 25-minute period in the second half brought eight goals, five of them from the pounds 12m team the former England centre-half inherited when Arthur Cox resigned, because of a back injury, on Saturday evening.

Not surprisingly, McFarland's head was spinning in the aftermath. 'I'm not sure I'll survive many more like that one,' he said. It had been heart-stopping stuff, Derby almost permitting a 4-1 lead to be wiped out by enterprising opponents before their cushion was restored.

Oddly, as the Albion manager, Keith Burkinshaw, reflected, until Paul Kitson's opener in the 48th minute the afternoon had seemed to be shaping up as one of those scrappy, frustrating and quite possibly goalless affairs that would be rapidly forgotten.

After Kitson, pouncing on a loose ball 10 yards out, had given Derby the lead, Paul Simpson's tap-in from Marco Gabbiadini's looping cross made it two within four minutes. But these were only appetisers.

Albion were back in the running within 60 seconds, Bob Taylor heading his 50th goal for the club. But then Mark Pembridge scored from the penalty spot after a harsh handball judgement against Neil Parsley and Simpson, reacting quickly when Tony Lange could not hold a Pembridge drive, collected his second to give Derby what appeared an impregnable lead.

Not so. Two goals in four minutes by Andy Hunt, an overhead kick followed by a neat chip past a sprawling goalkeeper, emphasised the visitors' refusal to lie down and even after Craig Short had bundled in the fifth for Derby, McFarland could not take his successful start for granted until the final whistle.

A member of two Derby championship sides, McFarland has popular support but may not be given a long period of grace by his employers, even though he is under contract for a year. It has been clear that the patience of the club's patron, Lionel Pickering, has been wearing thin with Cox's expensive attempts to buy a Premiership place.

Derby County (4-4-2): M Taylor; Charles, Short, Wassall, Forsyth; Pembridge, Kuhl, Williams (Harkes, 89), Simpson; Gabbiadini (Johnson, 81), Kitson. Substitute not used: Sutton (gk).

West Bromwich Albion (4-1-2-1-2): Lange; Parsley, Raven, Burgess, Ampadu; Bradley; O'Regan, Hamilton; Mellon; Hunt, B Taylor. Substitutes not used: McNally, Strodder, Naylor (gk).

Referee: R Poulain (Huddersfield).

The Barnet chairman, Stephen Glynne, has resigned and the company secretary, Liz Ashfield, has been sacked following a boardroom dispute at the troubled Second Division club.

Reports page 28

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