BANDANA sales are set to go through the roof!

It won't be long before Town's fans are adopting the headgear following the Efe Sodje show at the McAlpine last night.

Not since Duncan Shearer gunned down Barnsley with a hat trick 17 years ago has a Town player made such a massive impact on debut - only this was better.

The Nigerian World Cup ace - who sat on the bench as Town were pegged by Cambridge - galvanised not only the defence but the whole team.

From the moment he brushed aside former Town player Gianfranco Tome for his first touch after 64 seconds, Sodje took the stage by storm and inspired a come-from-behind victory to set alight the season.

George Burley's insecure First Division side simply couldn't live with Town's passion and purpose, despite taking the lead through Ian Taylor five minutes before the break.

A sickening goal at that stage would have done for most teams, but not Peter Jackson's new-look Town.

Chasing down every loose ball and every Derby player in possession, Town were brimming with belief even before Jon Stead headed them level in the 59th minute from one of several dangerous John Thorrington crosses.

The American cap, restored to the side at the expense of Tyrone Thompson, looked bitten by the Jackson bug in a rip-roaring display and the celebration of his winner - his first Town goal since August 13 last year - earned him a ridiculous caution from referee Eddie Ilderton.

It was written in the stars that Sodje would be involved, providing the header back across goal from which Thorrington drilled in a close-range drive, and on this display Sodje is going to be the cult hero Town fans have been praying for since Marcus Stewart was so disastrously sold on (to Burley, of all people).

Strong in the tackle and commanding in the air, the man discarded by Crewe slotted in superbly alongside Steve Yates - Ian Hughes moved successfully to right-back to replace Martyn Booty - and there was no-one in the Derby frontline to match Sodje's pace, either.

He brought the house down on the hour when hunting down Candido Costa like a guided missile, winning the ball in a perfect challenge and laying it confidently back to Ian Gray in goal.

At that stage, buoyed by the equaliser, Town were all over their hapless-looking opposition as Lee Fowler and Tony Carss grabbed control of midfield, Thorrington played like a man possessed and Jon Newby's pace looked the perfect foil for Stead's many blossoming attributes.

With Rob Edwards and Danny Schofield also working their socks off down the left, Derby keeper Lee Grant had all on to prevent a rout in front of 731 travelling fans.

Newby and Stead, who had both seen efforts saved in the first half, brought excellent stops from Grant in the second, while big Tom Huddlestone (only 16!) cleared off the line to deny Newby a first goal in his new colours.

A Hughes cross headed down by Stead for Schofield to attract another wonderful save simply emphasised the power of Town's comeback - and how the fans lapped it up at the end.

They stood to applaud every member of the team, while Sodje was worshipped like a God.

He skipped along the front of the John Smith's stand - still full of energy - and drew yet another roar from fans who had backed every morsel of effort with equal vocal commitment.

Then he turned to the lower tier, waved his arms in appreciation and whipped up the kind of ovation which Jackson himself had been accorded only three days before.

When the two embraced before the team left the pitch, it put the seal on a night which truly marked the start of a new era for a club whose troubles are so recent and painful that every ounce of enjoyment is magnified tenfold.

Driven on by Jackson - who could be seen screaming from the Derby coaching box at times as he gave the fourth official nightmares - Town provided everything the manager has demanded.

One seasoned national newspaperman suggested Leeds United could do with even half of Town's passion and teamwork, while Derby chief Burley - who criticised his players for lacking bottle when put under pressure - believes Jackson's men are among the favourites to win the Third Division title.

It is far too early to think realistically in those terms, and Jackson has said many times already that his major objective this season is to make supporters proud to be Town fans once again.

He has achieved that in just two games.

MATCH FACTS (Town 4-4-2)

Ian Gray Disappointed to concede after making a fine stop to deny Costa's quickly taken free-kick. Rating: 8/10

Ian Hughes Hadn't played at right back for years but had a terrific game, tackling strongly and pushing forward well at times. Rating: 8/10

Rob Edwards Booked for the foul which resulted in Derby scoring, but led the side with typical spirit and had a free-kick blocked. Rating: 8/10

Steve Yates Showed all his experience to help quash the threat of Tome and Taylor and used the ball well. Rating: 8/10

Efe Sodje Outstanding. Had the crowd roaring approval for his tackling, heading and strength. An instant McAlpine hero. Rating: 10/10

John Thorrington Looks a different player to the last 18 months, tackling, crossing and scoring a cracking winner. More of the same, please. Rating: 8/10

Lee Fowler Niggled away at the Derby midfield and no-one was surprised when he was booked. Much more influential. Rating: 8/10

Tony Carss Chased everywhere and tried his luck with a couple of shots which went wide. Linked well in the centre Rating: 8/10

Danny Schofield Unlucky not to score when flicking the ball over a defender to shoot, but Grant made a fine save. Rating: 8/10

Jon Newby Worked his socks off and brought a brilliant save from Grant on 72 before having a header cleared off the line. Rating: 8/10

Jon Stead Scored a tremendous header for third goal in two matches and ran himself to a standstill like the rest of the team. Rating: 8/10

Derby County

Grant, Jackson, Boertien, Elliott, Mills (McLeod 67), Caldwell (Morris 83), Huddlestone, Valakari, Taylor, Costa, Tome.

Subs not used: Oakes (Gkp), Bolder, Hunt.

STAR MAN - Efe Sodje

Town's fans have been crying out for a talisman on the pitch since huge favourite Marcus Stewart was sold. Well, here he is. From first tackle to last, Sodje dominated the show and, even after the final whistle, he had the crowd roaring in a wonderful ovation.


Jon Stead's terrific header from a pinpoint John Thorrington cross on 58 minutes which levelled the scores and knocked any remaining stuffing out of George Burley's First Division visitors.


Subs used: Town: None. Derby: McLeod for Mills 67, Morris for Caldwell 83.

Subs not used: Town: Booty, Thompson, Senior (Gkp), Worthington, Booth. Derby: Oakes (Gkp), Bolder, Hunt.

Scorers: Town: Stead 58, Thorrington 69. Derby: Taylor 40.

Bookings: Town: Edwards, Thorrington, Fowler, Carss. Derby: None.

Shots on target: Town 8, Derby 2.

Corners: Town 6, Derby 2.

Caught offside: Town 7, Derby 7.

Free-kicks awarded: Town 12, Derby 12.

Attendance: 6,672 (Away: 731).

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