It has been a turbulent week for both clubs, with Southampton losing to Plymouth after an irritatingly dubious penalty decision, while Derby's defensive frailties gifted Sheffield United the points in the wake of last weekend's shock defeat against Colchester in the FA Cup. The Rams acted quickly by sacking their manager, Phil Brown, while on the south coast, a rumoured takeover by a consortium led by Andrew Strode-Gibbons has been the talk of the town.
George Burley, Southampton's manager, decided that big changes were needed yesterday, so he brought in Danish striker Peter Madsen and defender Alexander Ostlund from Feyenoord. But new faces quickly brought together rarely make for smiling football and, here, the unfamiliarity caused Southampton to begin like strangers.
Derby were not much better; passing badly and defending on the verge of generosity - but at least they had a shot somewhere near the target in a lamentable first half. A teasing free-kick from Inigo Idiakez was headed a shade round the post by Darren Moore. Lacking an alternative, the home crowd amused themselves by chanting: "We want Rupert [Lowe] out."
Keeping the ball out of their net was the more immediate priority for Southampton when, shortly before half-time, a corner from Idiakez beat Bartosz Bialkowski's grasp and almost went in. The keeper then pushed Moore's header on to the underside of the crossbar and the rebound was screwed wide by Tommy Smith. Action! What a relief.
For the bulk of the second half, the home side remained penned in their own half, further annoying supporters who continued their insults against chairman Lowe.
Derby were unfortunate not to secure the win when Smith's shot rammed into Claus Lundekvam, but, as far as the future of both clubs was concerned, nothing here hinted at real optimism. Having already shipped out 17 players since his arrival, Burley accepted that even more changes are now needed.
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