Derby County 4 Brighton 1: Steve McClaren eyes return to Premier League

Derby win 6-2 on aggregate

The Ipro Stadium

Steve McClaren will probably have to contend with that image of him holding an umbrella, powerless to stop the dreams of the nation dying around him as England lost to Croatia in November 2007, for the rest of his life.

But he will return to Wembley in two weeks for the first time as a manager since that infamous night with his reputation emphatically restored.

He stands on the brink of leading Derby County back to the Premier League after a whirlwind seven months.

Goals from Will Hughes, Chris Martin, George Thorne and Jeff Hendrick completed a performance of such style and verve, the winner of Queen’s Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic will not want to face them. “We look a damn good side,” said McClaren. “We deserve this, we felt we were good enough to get to the final. It was the perfect performance.

“I’ve been back a few times to Wembley in the stands and will be back for the Cup final on Saturday. But for the play-off final, I won’t be taking a bloody brolly I know that. It won’t be like it was last time, it will be completely different.”

A sixth straight win on home soil was never in doubt from the moment Hughes opened the scoring with a classy back-heeled finish 35 minutes into this second leg after Derby had ground out a 2-1 win at the Amex Stadium in Thursday’s first encounter.

Where they earned their fortune on the south coast, there was no need for it in the East Midlands as they passed poor Brighton off the park.

Hughes’ cheeky effort from Craig Forsyth’s cross settled the nerves and Brighton were never able to respond. Indeed, the second half was a procession.

Martin buried his 25th of the campaign after reacting quicker than the visiting defence, minus Gordon Greer who had picked up a hamstring strain, to meet Jamie Ward’s header down from Johnny Russell’s cross.

Goal No 3 was to follow on 77 minutes as Thorne, the on-loan West Bromwich Albion midfielder, emphatically volleyed in from the edge of the area after Simon Dawkins’ shot had deflected into his path.

Hendrick went on to score the fourth three minutes from the end after starting and finishing a move that also involved Patrick Bamford.

Kazenga LuaLua was to get one back a minute from time – finishing from Inigo  Calderon’s cross – but there was to be no dampening the mood of Derby’s fans who carried off their heroes after invading the pitch at the end as McClaren’s return to the big time gathered pace.

“They were much better than us,” admitted Brighton manager Oscar Garcia. “I don’t want to look for excuses, they deserve to be in the final.

“It has been a fantastic season for us and not many people thought we could reach the play-offs.”

Derby County (4-3-3): Grant ; Wisdom , Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick, Thorne, Hughes  (Eustace 84); Russell (Bamford 79), Martin  Ward (Dawkins 67). Substitutes not used: Legzdins, Naylor, Sammon, Whitbread.

Brighton and Hove Albion (4-3-3): Kuszczak; Calderon, Dunk, Greer (Chicksen 24), Ward; Orlandi (Mackail-Smith 58), Andrews, Ince; Buckley (Lua-Lua 57), Ulloa, Lingard. Substitutes not used: Brezovan, Agustein , Forster-Caskey, March.

Referee: C Pawson.

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
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine