Derby Too Good For Brighton
Derby County booked their place in the play-off final at Wembley after outclassing Brighton & Hove Albion 4-1 at the iPro Stadium. The Rams had the better of a competitive opening period but after Will Hughes back heeled them in front with ten minutes to go until half-time the result was never in doubt. Chris Martin poked home from close range just before the hour mark to double the lead and Derby looked comfortable before George Thorne thumped home a volley with fourteen minutes to go. Jeff Hendrick rounded off another fine attacking move when he swept home from twelve yards to further increase their lead and Kazenga Lua Lua's late consolation couldn't dampen the spirits at the end of a superb second leg performance.
Will Hughes replaced the injured Craig Bryson in the only change for the second leg and The Rams had the better of the tight opening stages with Andre Wisdom cutting in from the right and forcing Tomasz Kuszczak into a low save with a left footed effort from the edge of the area. Craig Forsyth was next to threaten after linking with Jamie Ward and Chris Martin but his low drive only found the side netting but it was not long until the pressure told as Derby took the lead on thirty-four minutes. Ward laid the ball back to Forsyth and his low cross into the area was flicked home by Will Hughes with a neat back heel. Ward nearly increased the lead a few minutes later when he charged down Kuszczak's clearance only for the ball to drop agonisingly over the bar and Brighton's best chance of the half came just before the break when Rohan Ince's chip into the area picked out the run of Leonardo Ulloa who took a touch but was denied by Lee Grant who came out to meet him and smother the shot.
Brighton looked to up their tempo at the start of the second period but made no real impression on the game and The Rams extended their lead eleven minutes into the half when Johnny Russell's deep cross picked out Ward beyond the far post and his header back across goal was prodded home by Martin from close range. Martin was denied another goal when Kuszczak tipped the ball around the post from his effort and Keith Andrews had an effort well held by Grant at the other end in rare moment of threat from the visitors.
Derby were in irresistible form going forward and they increased their lead even further with fourteen minutes to go when Simon Dawkins, on in place of Ward, had a shot blocked but the ball fell to George Thorne on the edge of the area who thumped home an unstoppable volley. The tie was beyond any doubt but this didn't stop The Rams going for more goals and they hit number four with three minutes left to play when Patrick Bamford was on the end of another neat move and he cut the ball back for Jeff Hendrick to smash home from twelve yards out. Brighton got themselves a consolation goal on the stroke of full-time when Kazenga Lua Lua swept home from the edge of the box but it had no effect on the final outcome in a game in which they were second best nearly all night.
Derby County: Grant, Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth, Thorne, Hendrick, Hughes (Eustace, 84), J Ward (Dawkins, 67), Russell (Bamford, 78), Martin.
Unused subs: Legzdins, Naylor, Whitbread, Sammon.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Kuszczak, Calderon, Greer (Chicksen, 24), Dunk, S Ward, Ince, Andrews, Orlandi (Mackail-Smith, 57), Buckley (LuaLua, 57), Lingard, Ulloa.
Unused subs: Brezovan, March, Forster-Caskey, Agustien.