If this game was not the most meaningless of the weekend, then it was in the hunt. Derby doomed, West Ham marooned in mid-table. Paul Jewell came up with a little anecdote to divert attention, however.
Jewell has yet to see his Derby team win after 21 games in charge which, for someone who quit his last job at Wigan partly because of mental fatigue, is a mite worrying. He had been forewarned, though. "I remember one Premier League manager I spoke to in November after they had played Derby – I won't tell you who it was – and he said to me, 'Get as much money on as you like that Derby don't win another game all season.' I said, 'It's funny you should say that, I'm taking the job next week'."
Derby played Everton in late October, followed by Aston Villa, West Ham and Chelsea in November, so the tip could have come from Jewell's opposite number on Saturday after the Hammers' 5-0 win at Pride Park. Alan Curbishley had the look of a man who had forgotten to put the bet on.
His team were booed off on Saturday after winning a far closer affair and the fans also chanted the tiresome ditty, "You don't know what you're doing" as Curbishley sent on Carlton Cole for the ineffective Freddie Sears. Cole scored the winner four minutes later, a tap-in after Freddie Ljungberg's neat one-two with Mark Noble.
"I don't think there's been too much appreciation for what had gone on here this season," said Curbishley, referring to his well-chronicled injury problems. Jewell was asked if he had ever had a team booed off after winning. "I'd like to have had the chance," came the reply.
Bobby Zamora scored his first goal for almost a year in the 20th minute, heading home George McCartney's free-kick. The leveller came from Tyrone Mears, who was a flop in his West Ham days. This was his first of the season but he took it well, using his pace to latch on to Hossam Ghaly's through-ball before thumping it past Robert Green. "It was good to come back and show a few people what I could do," said Mears. "Not so much the staff but the West Ham fans. They turned on their team very quickly."
His good work was undone by Cole's winner 12 minutes later. "There's going to be a lot of competition in terms of who's going to stay and who's going to go in the summer," said Cole, who clearly believes he is playing for his future. Given the injuries, Curbishley is unlikely to want to let too many go.
Goals: Zamora (20) 1-0; Mears (65) 1-1; Cole (77) 2-1.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Green; Pantsil, Tomkins, Neill, McCartney; Faubert (Solano, 78), Noble, Parker, Ljungberg (Boa Morte, 90); Sears (Cole, 74), Zamora. Substitutes not used: Walker (gk), Mullins.
Derby County (4-4-2): Carroll; Todd (McEveley, 83), Leacock, Stubbs, Lewis; Mears, Ghaly, Savage, Jones (Villa, 75); Sterjovski, Miller. Substitutes not used: Price (gk), Feilhaber, Moore.
Referee: S Tanner (Somerset).
Booked: West Ham Noble, Parker.
Man of the match: Ljungberg.