Football: Miklosko's misery

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The Independent Online
Derby County 2

Miklosko og 10, Sturridge 49

West Ham United 0

Attendance: 29,300

Derby maintained their unbeaten Premiership record at Pride Park yesterday against a West Ham side that produced a typically poor away performance. The Hammers have now lost eight of their ten away matches this season, a statistic that must be causing Harry Redknapp some concern.

His side, who produced a fine performance in beating Crystal Palace 4- 1 last Wednesday, displayed few signs of creativity or communication yesterday. John Hartson was played alone up front for the first half and had no chances at all while their goalkeeper Ludo Miklosko was severely punished for two errors.

In the second half, when Redknapp switched formations and introduced Sammassi Abou in attack, the only benefit for Hartson was being provided with a sole shooting opportunity, saved without difficulty by Mart Poom. Part of the reason that West Ham were stunted in their rare attacks was the return to the Derby side, after two months out with a back injury, of their influential captain, the central midfielder Igor Stimac.

Not only did Stimac cut off the several potential feeding passes from Eyal Berkovitch, he instilled a sense of confidence among his fellow players. Another part of the reason was that they simply failed to compete. From the kick-off it was apparent that Derby would be the more creative side, but their opening goal was messy rather than magical. A ninth-minute corner swung into the box, and amid some confusion, three Derby players got touches to the ball, the last being Dean Sturridge.

He did not claim the goal however, and a fumbling Miklosko and unlucky David Unsworth will take the blame. Throughout the rest of the first half, the Derby attacks were marshalled by their dynamic Italians, Francesco Baiano and Stefano Eranio, at least until the latter was stretchered off after 33 minutes with a head injury.

Derby's second goal again came from a West Ham mistake. Five minutes into the second half, Miklosko's goal kick went straight to Sturridge 40 yards out, and the striker simply ran the ball forward, unchallenged, to score.

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