Football: Sturridge steps in

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The Independent Online
West Ham United 1

Bishop 17

Derby County 1

Sturridge 43

Attendance: 24,576

Even with such a plethora of international talent on parade, the game still spluttered to end in a draw that was crying out for that touch of class that might have brought the result at either end.

Aljosa Asanovic might have provided it for Derby in the dying minutes with a sublime cross that Ashley Ward met with a powerful header, but Ludek Miklosko was equal to the task. The Hammers came closest to breaking the deadlock in the late flurries when Darryl Powell cleared Iain Dowie's header off the Derby goal-line.

It had all started so promisingly for West Ham. Their visitors had Powell and Dean Sturridge booked in the first 10 minutes before Ian Bishop beat Powell to Russell Hoult's clearance in the 17th minute. He took half a dozen strides towards goal and flicked a 25-yard drive past the stranded goalkeeper. Ironically, minutes from time Bishop himself was dispossessed in a similar situation by Ward and had to be grateful for Steve Potts's opportune tackle, one of several timely interceptions by the defender.

Irony upon irony, it was Potts getting in the way of Sturridge's 42nd- minute volley that deflected the shot wide of the diving Miklosko for Derby's equaliser. Asanovic's graceful elegance was allied with occasional venom, as on the half-hour when Miklosko just got a finger to a 30-yard volley that edged it over the bar.

The East End Portuguese factor in the shape of Hugo Porfirio had been largely negligible although Upton Park hopes were raised when Paulo Futre, their other Portuguese player, replaced Stan Lazaridis with half an hour still to play. But even he could not unlock a Derby defence superbly shepherded by the remarkable Paul McGrath. In a season splattered with multi-million-pound deals the veteran defender could prove to be the biggest bargain of them all at pounds 200,000.

The ability of Darryl Powell, Sean Flynn and Jacob Laursen to deny Bishop and John Moncur the space in the midfield in which they would have revelled was sufficient to justify Derby leaving with a point.

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