Brown's new side stutter into gear

Derby County 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 1
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The Independent Football

Indeed, as you watched Phil Brown's new charges struggle to contain a bunch of resilient warhorses and industrious colts, it was difficult to trace their breeding back to the thoroughbreds George Burley took so close to the Premiership.

Brown has a long, long way to go before reprising that form - his severely pared-down squad affording him not even the "paucity" of resources that supposedly made Burley walk in the strange days following the play-off defeat to Preston - and Mark McGhee was the happier manager after watching his men perform commendably. "One point closer to safety," he might have said.

With seven of the 22 players making their debuts here, cohesion was a concept as misunderstood as the Derby board claim to have been. Never mind the close season, the opening stages were open season for anybody with a toecap and even a quarter-of-an-eye for a gap.

Derby blinked first; Jason Dodd, the evergreen right-back so fortuitously picked up from Southampton, firing in a free-kick which flummoxed both Lee Camp, the England Under-21 goalkeeper, and the young centre-half Andrew Davies, leaving Dean Hammond an uninterrupted header into the net. From escaping relegation by a point in May, Brighton found themselves one to the good, away from home, after just seven minutes of the new campaign. They managed to hold on to such a giddying advantage for five more.

Apart from being Mr Karen Brady, Paul Peschisolido is also known in the Midlands as being a goal-poacher, usually off the bench. Yesterday he capitalised on a rare start when linking on to Inigo Idiakez's long throw-in to smash home a rip-roaring half-volley from 15 yards. The good times had returned. Almost. For a minute or two. If you squinted really hard.

To be fair, despite controlling long patches, the visitors were fortunate to go in to the interval level after the referee, Barry Curzon, had waved away a blatant pull-back on Grzegorz Rasiak in the area. He also ignored Derby's calls for a defender's hand on the line as the second half began.

Perhaps the pulled ligament that forced Curzon's well-received withdrawal in the 50th minute wasn't too inconvenient, and with their nemesis off - and the fourth official, Martin Harris, on - the crowd could offer some vocal encouragement. Michael Johnson's header flicked the bar, Morten Bisgaard's unmarked effort should at least have matched it and the pressure looked certain to grow with every passing minute.

Alas, they passed oh-so slowly as Derby ran out of ideas faster than Brighton ran out of gumption. In fact, the Seagulls deserved to have nicked it in the 85th minute when Leon Knight's post-shaving free-kick almost punished the home defence for pulling down Colin Kazim-Richards. Something at last for Derby to feel thankful for.