Southend United 0 Derby County 1

Last updated : 21 January 2007 By Footymad Previewer
Steve Howard's first-half goal put Derby County three points clear at the top of the Championship table and ended Southend's six-match unbeaten run.

The Rams swapped places with Birmingham City, whose match at Leicester was postponed, although Steve Bruce's team have two games in hand on County.

Transfer window signing Gary Teale had the first say when he latched on to David Jones' pass but his shot was caught by advancing Southend keeper Darryl Flahavan.

The match settled into an open but uneventful encounter that sprang to life after 16 minutes when Mo Camara's square ball from the left found Bob Malcolm, whose shot from distance failed to trouble Flahavan.

Southend hit back a minute later as skipper Kevin Maher dispossessed Malcolm and fed Freddy Eastwood, whose shot was saved low by a diving Stephen Bywater.

Howard went close to breaking the deadlock on 27 minutes but his right-foot drive from 20 yards cannoned back off the right post.

Mark Gower replied with two shots that went wide of Bywater's goal before Howard put the Rams in the driving seat after 33 minutes.

Steve Howard
Stevie Howard scores to take the Rams top of the Championship
Teale floated his corner from the left in to the near post where Howard headed home from six yards for his 12th goal of the season.

Rams skipper Darren Moore then spurned a great chance to put his side further ahead. Jones' free-kick was knocked down by Howard to Moore but he blasted wide when well placed.

The second half came alive when Rams boss Billy Davies was sent to the stands by referee Iain Williamson. Davies had been having run-ins with the fourth official, who was due to be an assistant referee before injuring himself before kick-off, all afternoon.

On the pitch both sides had a string of soft shots before Southend nearly equalised. Gower's piledriver was parried by Bywater and Peter Clarke blasted the rebound wide.

Howard went close to getting his second when Craig Fagan, making his first start for Derby, capitalised on Clarke's slip and cut back the ball across the six-yard box, but the on-rushing Howard could not quite connect with it.

Marc Edworthy then came to Derby's rescue twice. First his last-ditch tackle five yards out prevented Eastwood from getting to McCormack's ball into the box.

Then the right-back cleared Clarke's header off the line from Mark Hammell's corner.

The Rams broke clear and Howard found himself in a one-on-one with Flahavan but shot straight at the keeper.

Eastwood's free-kick went straight through the Derby wall but was saved by Bywater, before Flahavan blocked Fagan's curling shot at the other end.