Todd's attacking policy pays

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The Independent Football

It may have been 15 months in coming, but relegation-threatened Derby County finally scored more than two goals in a Premiership game. That they struck three times in this fully deserved victory over Aston Villa is testament to Colin Todd's decision to play a three-pronged attack comprising a trio of enigmatic forwards.

The 3-1 scoreline in Derby's favour was only the third win under Todd and the second in 15 games, and it arrived thanks to to his decision to form an attacking partnership of Fabrizio Ravanelli, Benito Carbone and Giorgi Kinkladze.

"This is a very, very big win," Todd said. "Our home form is vital because it is keeping us in touch with the clubs ahead of us. We took the initiative in this game. Some say you can't play Giorgi Kinkladze, Carbone and Ravanelli in the same team, but you can get away with it at home."

Ravanelli set the game into life with his ninth goal of the season on the stroke of half-time, when he hooked home following a clever chest down by Chris Riggott from Carbone's corner. Any thoughts of going in at the break ahead, however, were shot down.

As the Derby players congratulated each other, Villa struck back with aplomb. JLloyd Samuel sent across a right-wing centre and Dion Dublin's flick-on found Juan Pablo Angel, whoslotted home past Mart Poom.

John Gregory, the Villa manager, desperate for three points ahead of festive fixtures against Liverpool (Boxing Day) and Tottenham (on Saturday), confessed afterwards: "This is a big loss. I am devastated not to have won. We had more than enough chances, but could not open them up. It was a golden opportunity to get three points and we failed because of poor defending."

By the 67th minute Villa were dead and buried. The substitute Hassan Kachloul struck an upright and from the immediate counter-attack Derby regained the advantage. It came courtesy of Carbone, his first goal for the club since arriving on loan from Bradford City, after Peter Schmeichel had failed to hold a cross from Ravanelli.

Suggestions that Derby are not the same threat without the talented trio in attack were rammed back down the critics' throats three minutes from time. England under-21 international Malcolm Christie, left out in favour of Kinkladze, ran on to a through ball from fellow substitute Deon Burton and steered the shot wide of the advancing Schmeichel.

Whether the result, for Derby at least, signals the start of another re-run of the "Great Escape", remains to be seen. Todd has put the ship back in order and if he can continually get the best out of his front trio, then the undoubted talent in attack is sure to see them fulfil their mission and avoid the drop.

Goals: Ravanelli (45) 1-0; Angel (45) 1-1; Carbone (67) 2-1; Christie (87) 3-1.

Derby County (3-4-3): Poom 7; Riggott 7, Higginbotham 6, Mawené 6; Grenet 6 (Bolder 65, 6), Ducrouq 6, Boertien 7, Zavagno 6; Kinkladze 7 (Burton 75, 6), Ravanelli 8, Carbone 7 (Christie 70, 7). Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Elliott.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Schmeichel 5; Wright 6, Mellberg 6, Staunton 6, Samuel 6 (Kachloul 7, h-t); Boateng 6 (Balaban 6, 80), Merson 8, Barry 6 (Hendrie, 7, h-t), Stone 7; Dublin 6, Angel 7. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Taylor.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill) 6.

Booked: Aston Villa: Hendrie.

Man of the match: Ravanelli.

Attendance: 28,001.