Derby County 0 West Ham 5: Bowyer makes it another dark day for Derby

In hindsight, it was rather cruel of the organisers to make Derby County appear in the only Premier League fixture to be played at 3pm on this Saturday. After all, isolation at the bottom of the table is bad enough, and they really did not need to be pushed into another inglorious spotlight. Indeed, this performance was so shocking that a 2am kick-off on a Tuesday might have been more apt.

Not to take anything away from West Ham, who swaggered into the top 10 with this proudest of catwalks. Their win was as emphatic as it was welcome (this being their second victoryin their past seven League games). The East Enders have such pace, verve and blessed elan at their disposal that if and when they return to full strength, they will be some outfit.

Derby, in contrast, have a future that appears bleak until the season's end. Unless their manager, Billy Davies, can discover salvation in the January transfer window, that is.

He will have been comforted to read in the programme the assurances of the new chairman, Adam Pearson, that funds will be made available. The only question now is, how deep are the pockets? Davies can only pray the patience extends just as far.

His own certainly appears to be running out, despite the recognition that with three centre-halves and a left-back missing, and with a squad that is on the bald side of threadbare, there were mitigating factors.

"There is that as an excuse, but there is no excuse for the reaction after the first goal," said Davies. "In the first 20 minutes we had opportunities but after they scored it was men against boys." To be frank, the visitors did not have to do an awful lot to take the advantage into the break. Nolberto Solano's sweetlystruck free-kick was only denied by the bar on the half-hour,but no matter, as 12 minutes later Lee Bowyer capitalised on the Derby defence's incredible vanishing act by coolly drilling Carlton Cole's knock-down underneath the goalkeeper, Stephen Bywater.

In the meantime, Derby's challenge amounted to very little. In fact, slightly less than verylittle. It was soon to go lurching into the minus column, as West Ham, realising there was absolutely no need to play it tight, decided to make a day of it, scoring three times in eight minutes, four in 18.

The impressive Bowyer was involved in the second when being the straight man in a delightful one-two with Matthew Etherington – the winger beating Bywater in the 51st minute – and then grabbing his brace when applying the necessaries to Cole's cross in the 59th minute.

A few minutes earlier, Jonathan Spector had squeezed the ball under Eddie Lewis, who fell over his own feet on the line and comically nudged it in as a result. It was left for Solano to ram home the Rams' deficiencies, by this time locating the netting with a free-kick in the 69th minute.

And what of Derby's attacks? Erm, Kenny Miller did have one free header that drifted 10 yards wide. That summed up their day, as it threatens to sum up their campaign. They have now completed almost nine hours without a League goal, and unless they can find the target in their final League match of the month in two weeks' time, it will mean they would have failed to score in both October and November. That game happens to be against Chelsea. Ouch.

Davies' confidence appears undiminished, though, and afterwards Curbishley urged him to "dust himself down and hang in there". He intends to. "If I'd spent 30 or 40 million in the summer," barked Davies, "I'd be asking myself some questions." As it is, the fans are.

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