Football: West Ham excel as Dicks exits

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The Independent Online
Derby County . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

West Ham United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

WEST HAM moved into second place in the First Division yesterday and left Derby's pounds 10m team with the worst home record in the English leagues in the process, but victory at the Baseball Ground was tarnished by the dismissal of Julian Dicks.

West Ham's left-back was sent off for the third time this season and the eighth time in his career - at the grand old age of 24 - for a second bookable offence against Ted McMinn. With only half an hour gone, and the visitors coasting at 2-0 despite an injury to their captain, Alvin Martin, Dicks's late challenge was as irresponsible as it was reckless.

The Upton Park 'Academy' has always had a rugged element, once epitomised by their manager, Billy Bonds, but a total of seven dismissals already constitutes a wretched record. Bonds confirmed that Dicks, fined a week's wages and stripped of the captaincy after his last indiscretion, would again find his wages affected. He also faces a three-match ban.

'I want commitment, but what Julian did was stupid,' Bonds said. 'For a tackle like that you've got to go. I was no shrinking violet myself, but you have control the aggression. This could have cost us our season. But I thought the lads who stayed on the park were absolutely brilliant.'

Even on a heavy, sapping pitch the 10 men never looked like relinquishing their advantage. They simply withdrew Kevin Keen to left-back and Morley into midfield, left Clive Allen to forage alone, and worked even harder at asserting their superior passing technique. Derby's unimaginative approach play did the rest.

Both goals stemmed from West Ham's ability to shred the right of Derby's defence. For the first, in the 10th minute, Mark Robson exchanged passes with Keen before turning sharply to leave Craig Short in an undignified heap and placing the ball out of Steve Sutton's reach from six yards.

Dicks was involved in the second, five minutes later, when his long pass sent Keen clear of the sluggish Jason Kavanagh. Michael Forsyth had a chance to clear the ensuing cross, only to be dispossessed, and the ball was worked out to the opposite side of the six- yard box before Peter Butler chipped it back inside. Morley swept in his 15th goal of the season.

Arthur Cox, the Derby manager, was at a loss to explain why his side have now lost eight home fixtures - only Cowdenbeath in the whole of Britain have a worse record - and are developing 'a phobia' about playing there. Inexperience, manifested in naivety, is certainly a factor; for all their expensively assembled talent, Derby had no midfield presence to compare with Martin Allen, who demonstrated surprising skill and leadership qualities.

'West Ham scored with their first attack, when our decisions about how to deal with it were very disappointing,' Cox complained. 'For the second goal, our central defenders wanted to play centre-forward and it was suicidal. We got more untidy as it went on. Billy Bonds will feel they got what they deserved, and I wouldn't argue with that.'

Derby created only one close- range chance, when Ludek Miklosko saved from Paul Kitson in the 75th minute, and trooped off to a chorus of jeers. Moments later the stadium was becalmed save for the Hammers' fans. Amid all the promotion commotion emanating from Tyneside and the East End, the silence of the Rams is becoming as perplexing as it is embarrassing.

Derby County: Sutton; Kavanagh, Forsyth, Short, Wassall, Pembridge, McMinn, Kuhl, Kitson, Johnson (Gabbiadini, 66), Simpson. Substitute not used: Coleman.

West Ham United: Miklosko; Breacker, Dicks, Potts, Martin (Foster, 4), M Allen, Robson (Parris, 51), Butler, Morley, C Allen, Keen.

Referee: A Wilkie (Chester-le-Street).

(Photograph omitted)