Derby County were knocked off the top of the Championship table as Brighton’s recent improvement under Chris Hughton continued, but even they will wonder how they managed it. Late goals by substitutes Dale Stephens and Kazenga LuaLua made nonsense of the earlier dominance of Derby, who lost on the road for the second time in four days.
Brighton’s victory was some measure of revenge for five successive defeats by the Rams, including both legs of last season’s play-off semi-finals. And it increased Derby’s chances of having to endure the end-of-season promotion lottery once again.
Three successive victories at the Amex makes this Brighton’s best run of home form for a year, but Derby’s four away games without a win is their worst spell on the road all season. It was also only the second time they have lost back-to-back games.
After a minute’s applause for Dave Mackay, the former Derby defender, captain and title-winning manager, the visitors ran the majority of the first half. After four minutes Jamie Ward and Johnny Russell created a chance for Jeff Hendrick to swerve a shot over David Stockdale and against the crossbar from 25 yards.
Brighton’s recent goalscoring form was not in evidence, their only chance of the first half coming when Richard Keogh, the Derby captain, misjudged a straightforward lofted pass by Beram Kayal, allowing Sam Baldock a shot that tested Lee Grant.
Derby were much more dangerous. After 29 minutes Tom Ince backheeled Russell’s clever through pass beyond Stockdale but not Gordon Greer, the Brighton captain, who was covering alertly. The first half ended with Keogh’s header from a corner pawed over the bar by Stockdale.
Derby came out for the second half in even more determined mood and could have scored through Keogh’s glancing header, nodded off his own goal line by Lewis Dunk, and Hendrick’s first-time rocket from 20 yards, tipped over by Stockdale.
But football’s lack of justice was revealed when Stephens scored his first goal of an injury-troubled season minutes after taking the field, slotting the ball home from 10 yards after a shot by Inigo Calderon had been blocked.
And LuaLua made the score look even more nonsensical when he lashed home an emphatic shot that zipped past Grant’s left hand from 15 yards.Reuse content