Prodigal guides Derby


A RAPID infusion of Dutch courage could be Derby County's salvation as they dig in deep for a relegation battle while opening up a separate, front in the FA Cup.

Robin van der Laan made his first start for the home side since returning from an unhappy loan spell at Wolves last autumn. Taking over the team captain's armband from the injured Igor Stimac, the Dutchman tilted this fourth round tie Derby's way when he shot them ahead in the 36th minute.

The club captain had led Derby to promotion last May but come, August, had found himself strangely out of favour. He also became persona non grata on loan to Wolves when he fell out with the manager Mark McGhee and was brought home four weeks early.

Aston Villa could have done with some of the 28 year old midfielder's rugged drive. Up until the first goal they had been strolling around as if they owned the place, but four minutes later they were two behind when an incredible back heeled flick from Aljosa Asanovic cleared their defence for Dean Sturridge to score.

After that a weakened Derby - threatened to run riot against their one paced visitors, who seemed incapable of changing up a gear.

Sturridge began the move that ended with Ron Willems tapping in a third in the 69th minute, before Sasa Curcic pulled back a by then meaningless goal for Villa.

Andy Townsend, the Republic of Ireland captain, is likely to miss the World Cup warm up game against Wales at Cardiff on February 11th after damaging a shoulder on Saturday. Mick McCarthy will consult with Brian Little this morning on the extent of the injury which Townsend sustained in a collision with Ron Willems.