West Bromwich 1 Derby County 0: Hartson the hero blunts the Rams

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Substitute John Hartson scored the only goal of the game as West Brom ended their two-game losing streak with a 1-0 victory over Derby at The Hawthorns.

Albion had enjoyed most of the possession and the best of the chances with goalkeeper Stephen Bywater saving at the feet of Kevin Phillips during the first half and then touching a Diomansy Kamara shot onto the crossbar in the second. But Bywater could do little about Hartson's 89th-minute winner which was deflected home off defender Paul Boertien.

The game had opened with a Derby scare when, in the fourth minute, Bywater fumbled a Jason Koumas cross but Kamara could not convert his unexpected chance from close range. Koumas then blazed a 25-yard free-kick into the stands after Michael Johnson had brought down Kamara before Derby fashioned their first chance as Dean Leacock nodded a free header wide from David Jones' cross. Derby's Jon Stead chanced his arm with a volley before Kamara volleyed over at the other end following another Koumas cross. After 15 minutes Johnson was replaced by fellow centre-half Darren Moore after suffering an injury in a last-ditch tackle which denied Kamara inside the area. Soon the Baggies were pressing again, this time Nigel Quashie's swirling shot being batted away by Bywater who was forced into more emergency measures moments later when he raced off his line to save one-handed at the feet of Phillips. Kamara was the first name in referee Russell Booth's book after Lupoli was clattered in the 33rd minute.

As the interval approached Derby's Steve Howard snatched at a shot from Giles Barnes' cross, the Rams striker actually in more space than he realised. Both sides ran out unchanged for the start of the second half which opened with Lupoli and Howard close to making a telling contact on Stead's cross before Barnes took possession following a Howard flick on and blasted narrowly wide. Boertien was next to need treatment for a head injury and it was from Derby's vacant left-back berth that Kamara forced Bywater into a fingertip save which was diverted onto the crossbar.

The hosts responded on the break in the 73rd minute but Gera was unable to find Hartson who had replaced Kamara 11 minutes earlier. Gera sent Martin Albrechtsen clear into the Derby box but when the centre came, Phillips missed his kick from point-blank range. A draw looked inevitable but Hartson, back from an ankle injury, struck with little more than a minute remaining after taking Paul Robinson's pass on the chest and turning into the Derby box where he fired home from 10 yards out.

Comments