Football round-up: Lazaridis lifts Hammers high

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The Independent Online
A STUNNING 25-yard drive by Stan Lazaridis, the West Ham United wing-back, was enough to beat Newcastle United at St James' Park, improve the Hammers' hitherto risible away form and point the way to a possible Uefa Cup place next season.

Kenny Dalglish, the Magpies' manager, made five changes to the side which defeated Stevenage Borough in the FA Cup fourth-round replay, giving Premier debuts to his two signings of the week - Gary Speed and Andrew Griffin - a home debut to Andreas Andersson, and recalling the goalkeeper Shay Given in place of Shaka Hislop and the centre-back Darren Peacock for Steve Howey. Speed, signed from Everton for pounds 5.5m, set up Alan Shearer in the 12th minute but the England striker fired over from six yards. Five minutes later, Lazaridis struck.

From that point, West Ham grew in confidence and continued to play the better football in the second half as the Newcastle fans started to voice displeasure at what they were seeing from Dalglish's side, assembled at a cost of over pounds 20m.

George Graham's Leeds United took the best away record in the Premiership - six wins and two draws in 12 matches - to Filbert Street, but it didn't overawe Leicester City who won the game in the last minute of the first half. Gunnar Halle pulled back Emile Heskey as he tried to control Tony Cottee's flick-on and Garry Parker calmly dispatched the penalty.

Leicester, who won at Old Trafford last Saturday, carried on the dogged form from that match to get their charge for a Uefa Cup place back in gear.

In the Midlands derby at Pride Park, Derby County slumped to their first- ever defeat at their new stadium when struggling Aston Villa grabbed three precious points in the dying minutes thanks, inevitably, to their Trinidad and Tobago striker Dwight Yorke.

With Paulo Wanchope and Deon Burton on international duty, Jim Smith, the Derby manager, pushed up the defender Christian Dailly to join Dean Sturridge in attack. The partnership lasted 15 minutes. Derby centre-back Dean Yates was stretchered off after a tackle by Yorke, who was was booked, Dailly moved back and Ron Willems came on.

Derby didn't have a shot worthy of the name in the second half as Villa got on top. Yorke scored their rare winner two minutes from time.

Middlesbrough lost the leadership of the First Division when they were held to a draw by Birmingham City at St Andrews. Sloppy defending at the start of the game gave Brum an early lead. Steve Baker's square pass across the Boro goalmouth let in Jon McCarthy who pounced to beat Mark Schwarzer in the third minute. As half-time approached, Boro gradually got back into the game and equalised when Gianluca Festa, back after suspension, powered forward, collected a return pass from Paul Merson and fired home from 20 yards.

The slip allowed Nottingham Forest, 1-0 winners at Portsmouth, to regain the top spot. Pompey were out to impress their prospective owner the American billionaire businessman Vince Wolanin, but Steve Chettle had other ideas and scored Forest's winner seven minutes into the second half.