Brighton 1 Derby County 2 match report: Chris Martin steers Derby step closer to Premier League

Striker has a hand in both goals as Rams take control of Championship play-off semi-final

the amex stadium

Derby County have one foot firmly in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on 24 May after completing a hat-trick of victories this season over Brighton & Hove Albion.

They beat the Seagulls home and away on their way to third place in the table and will be confident of completing the job at the iPro Stadium on Sunday evening.

Steve McClaren's side overcame the shock of conceding an early goal to dominate the opening half of this play-off semi-final first leg with their pace and control on the break.

Chris Martin levelled with his 21st goal of the season – his third against Brighton – from the penalty spot, and it was Martin's shot that deflected in off the unlucky Brighton goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak to give Derby the lead.

When Brighton tried to strike back in the second half, Derby goalkeeper Lee Grant kept out everything they could throw at him.

It was Brighton's first defeat in nine games and they will need to produce the sort of performance on Sunday that brought them nine league wins on the road this season, including three-point hauls at champions Leicester and one of the other play-off semi-finalists Wigan.

They had looked dangerous early on whenever Will Buckley was in possession and he opened the way for Brighton to take the lead after 18 minutes when his flick allowed right-back Inigo Calderon to set up Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United loanee's first shot was blocked but he thrashed his second past Grant from 10 yards.

But Derby were level after 28 minutes when one of a number of quick breaks ended with left-back Craig Forsyth charging into the heart of the Brighton defence. Matthew Upson's challenge was nowhere near the ball and Martin, who scored twice in Derby's 2-1 win at the Amex in August, converted the penalty.

This should have been a warning to Brighton that Derby's pace was going to be a danger on the counter-attack, but it seemed to go unheeded. Johnny Russell and Craig Bryson both went close after pouncing on misplaced passes by Brighton players and speeding clear of defenders.

The momentum was now firmly with Derby and it came as no surprise when they took the lead in first-half injury time, although there was an element of fortune about the goal.

A quickfire burst of passing had Brighton chasing shadows, and Martin was unchallenged as he unleashed a fierce rising shot that beat Kuszczak and crashed against the crossbar. However, when the ball came back into play it hit the prone goalkeeper on the back and rebounded into the net.

Brighton needed to regain the initiative, and they introduced winger Kazenga LuaLua at the interval in an attempt to force Derby back, but Calderon put a decent chance into row Z and Leo Ulloa's bouncing, goal-bound shot was fingertipped on to the crossbar and to safety by Grant.

The Derby goalkeeper bettered that 10 minutes from time to touch over Stephen Ward's 20-yarder for a corner seconds after he had pushed aside a long-range effort by Lingard. Brighton need to do better than that on Sunday.

Uwe Rösler refuses to play mind games with QPR

Wigan manager Uwe Rösler is not prepared to engage in "pressure bingo" before his team's meeting with Queen's Park Rangers, as two of last season's relegated sides bid to return to the Premier League.

The Derby manager, Steve McClaren, stressed it was a "must" for two clubs playing in the top flight last year to achieve promotion.

But Rösler, before Friday night's semi-final first leg, said: "What we have now is pressure bingo. I'm not going in that direction. But when [QPR boss] Harry Redknapp says we are the clear favourites for promotion, then I have to smile a little bit.

"Harry said we have the best squad – I think we have a very good squad – but Harry has probably a three times bigger wage budget than we have."

Second leg dates

Sunday Derby v Brighton (5.15)

Monday QPR v Wigan (7.45)

Final Sat 24 May (Wembley)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks