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Top Five: Lionel Messi fails

The Toe Poke 34 minutes ago
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By ESPN Staff
Jan 31, 2007

Championship review: Derby extend lead

Derby's first team coach Julian Darby praised the team's defence after Steve Howard's 12th goal of the season fired the Rams six points clear at the top of the Coca-Cola Championship in a match against Burnley which ended with both managers and a player being sent off.

Howard scored inside the opening five minutes to consign Steve Cotterill's men to their 10th game without a win in all competitions.

Home manager Billy Davies was sent to the stands early in the second half for arguing with a decision of referee Mike Riley, who sent off Eric Djemba-Djemba and then Cotterill in the dying minutes.

Davies failed to show after the match but in his absence Darby chose to focus on the way the defence played after Howard had put them in front.

'If we keep a clean sheet we know we can score some goals. The back five are looking organised and controlled,' he said.

Second-placed Birmingham suffered a shock 3-1 home defeat to Southend, who climbed off the foot of the table.

The Shrimpers recovered from conceding an early own goal by Peter Clarke, thanks to efforts from Kevin Maher, Freddy Eastwood - his 13th of the campaign - and Mark Gower.

Southend manager Steve Tilson said: 'If we had come away with a point, I certainly would have been pleased but to come away with all three gives us a platform to build on for the rest of the season.

'If we can come to Birmingham and get a result then there is no reason with the same grit and determination why we can't go elsewhere and pick up points.'

Blues boss Steve Bruce said: 'We had a horrible night, a really bad night, after starting so brightly.

'Those mistakes mean there are going to be plenty of those horrible nights in this league at different clubs over the next two or three months when the tickly bit starts.

'It will be how we handle it - and we've got to handle it better than we did against Southend, that's for sure, individually and collectively.'

Leeds replace Southend at the foot of the table on goal difference despite a 2-1 victory in their Yorkshire derby at Hull.

Alan Thompson netted the winner with a trademark free-kick after Nicky Forster had cancelled out Matt Heath's opener, leaving manager Dennis Wise optimistic.

'When I first came here, the bunch of lads that were here might have crumbled. But this group of lads I now have are a good bunch,' he said.

'They can get out of this mess and they've shown that they can do that here.'

Barnsley hauled themselves out of the bottom three with a 2-0 home win over QPR, who replace them in the drop zone.

Marc Richards broke his 15-game goal drought before Brian Howard wrapped up the points in stoppage-time.

'We've now put together two wins and that's what we need at this stage of the season,' said Tykes manager Simon Davey.

Luton slipped nearer danger after Leon McKenzie's goal was enough to see them off at Coventry, whose caretaker manager Adrian Heath was heartened by his players ending a seven-match winless streak.

'I think we have enough quality to get ourselves enough points, but the longer those defeats kept coming the more you think about it,' he said of the struggling Sky Blues.

Stoke passed up the chance to move back into the play-off places with a goalless draw with Ipswich at the Britannia Stadium.

Colchester took advantage to cut the deficit to the top six with a 1-0 victory over title-chasing Preston, Garry Richards heading home the winner.

Wolves survived the dismissals of Gary Breen and Jackie McNamara to steal a 1-0 win at Norwich, Michael Kightly scoring the only goal of the game while the visitors still had 11 men on the field.

Sunderland's play-off hopes took a took a knock with a goalless draw at home to Crystal Palace.