Derby County 1 Plymouth Argyle 0: Davies deflates Derby's sense of great expectations

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The Independent Football

Managing Derby County is one thing. Managing the expectations of their fans is something altogether different for Billy Davies.

Since the day he walked into Pride Park in the summer, the script has not changed. "This is a long job and we'll get there gradually," is the message he could have recorded in August and played a hundred times since.

With each passing victory, though, even one as scratchy as this against stubborn Plymouth Argyle, comes a growing suspicion that Davies is deliberately downplaying his team's chances. Well, it does no harm to be regarded as an overachiever.

Davies is certainly that. Derby finished 20th last season while he went to the play-offs for the second year running with Preston North End, the club to whom he returns for the first time today for an encounter between the second and third-placed teams.

Now Davies says there is "no chance" of Derby lasting the pace without January reinforcements and that it will take two or three transfer windows for the club to be where he wants them. "We know the development that has to be done," he added. "What I am happy about is that we are up there fighting with teams that have had years working together."

There is real substance to Davies' work as well as spin, and 14 League victories to date underline his winning habit, even if all but two have been by the odd goal. This one was ground out, with nine minutes to spare, when Jon Stead and Arturo Lupoli cleverly set up Morten Bisgaard's routine finish.

Plymouth, their injury concerns increased by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's going off in the 12th minute with an ankle problem, shaded a featureless first half and continued to survive for the most part in comfort. However, their manager, Ian Holloway, will also be looking to the marketplace after today's home game against Southampton.

"Hopefully, someone will be breezing through the door to help us, because that's all we need at the moment," he said.

Goal: Bisgaard (81) 1-0.

Derby County (4-3-3): Bywater; Edworthy, Moore, Leacock, Camara; Oakley, Malcolm (Lupoli, 62), Jones (Barnes, h-t); Bisgaard, Howard, Stead (M Johnson, 89). Substitutes not used: Peschisolido, S Johnson.

Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): Larrieu; Connolly (Dickson, 89), Seip, Doumbe, Aljofree; Norris, Buzsaky (Summerfield, 89), Nalis, Capaldi; Hayles, Ebanks-Blake (Samba, 12). Substitutes not used: McCormick (gk), Sawyer.

Referee: C Webster (Tyne & Wear).

Booked: Derby Camara; Plymouth Aljofree, Connolly, Seip.

Man of the match: Bisgaard.

Attendance: 25,775.