Football: Safety-first Smith could aim higher

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The Independent Online
Derby County 2 West Ham United 0

Jim Smith's first reaction to Derby's win on Saturday should be taken with a pinch of salt. "We need four more wins now to stay up," he said, with no hint of anything other than pragmatism.

"At the level of club we are at, you look at what's below and the first job is to get to safety as quickly as possible."

Perhaps by talking down the capabilities of his side, he feels they can flourish without the pressure of expectation. Or perhaps, by saying, in public at least, that they might just be good enough to avoid relegation Smith feels he might somehow urge his men to prove him wrong.

But with a side as full of potential as the current Rams, it might not be a bad idea to let them know he believes they are capable of a top-six finish.

With their influential captain, Igor Stimac, back in the side, with Italian Stefano Eranio and compatriot Francesco Baiano both capable of conjuring defence- breaching skills at will, and with a choice of formidable attackers (Paulo Wanchope, the speedy Dean Sturridge, and Jamaica's Deon Burton), a little encouragement might just instil the confidence away from home that sees them unbeaten at Pride Park this season.

On Saturday, however, it was West Ham goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko who ultimately handed them both their goals. After 10 minutes he failed to hold the ball from a corner and ended up pushing it into the net, then early in the second half his deft pass straight to Sturridge from a goal-kick was all the assistance the Derby striker needed to score.

Harry Redknapp said dryly of Miklosko's error: "The players get paid very well not to do that." Although it was not just his goalkeeper, he felt, who performed below par; Eyal Berkovitch, Rio Ferdinand and John Hartson (who has scored only three of his 17 goals away from home) were also guilty of underperforming, he said. A partner for Hartson might help matters, as might the return of Paul Kitson. Unless he changes something, Redknapp will be in greater need of safety points than his counterpart.

Goals: Miklosko og (1-0) 10; Sturridge (2-0) 49.

Derby County (3-4-1-2): Poom; Dailly, Stimac, Rowett; C Powell, Eranio (Hunt, 38), Carsley, Kozluk; Baiano (D Powell, 83); Sturridge, Wanchope. Substitutes not used: Yates, Burton, Hoult (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-1-1): Miklosko; Unsworth, Ferdinand, Pearce, Breacker (Abou, h/t); Lomas, Lampard, Moncur, Lazaridis (Alves, 76); Berkovitch; Hartson. Substitutes not used: Potts, Kitson, Sealey (gk).

Referee: A. Wilkie (County Durham).

Bookings: Derby: Sturridge, Hunt. West Ham: Breacker, Lampard.

Man of the match: Baiano.

Attendance: 29,300.

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