A Chris Martin penalty and a Tomasz Kusczcak own goal were enough to give Derby a 2-1 lead over Brighton in the first leg of their playoff semi-final
Well, no goals in the second half, but Derby were pretty solid as they hung onto their lead. Some smashing saves by Lee Grant helped keep them in the lead, and they will be ahead for the second leg on Sunday. Be very tricky for Brighton to come back from this. Cracking game, well done to everyone involved.
90 mins + 3: Derby, and more specifically Will Hughes, look to keep the ball in the corner. And it seems to be working.
90 mins + 2: Andrews nudges a free kick around 30 yards out to LuaLua, but his attempted shot doesn't beat the wall.
90 mins + 1: LuaLua cuts inside from the left and is scythed down by Thorne, who tries to get away with the booking by pretending to be injured. No dice - the yellow is flashed. Meanwhile, Will Hughes replaces Bryson.
90 mins: Conor Sammon: left winger. Man alive. The board goes up and there will be four minutes of added time.
89 mins: Derby try to kill some time by keeping the ball in the Brighton half, but they've taken off their players who could do that, so it's something of a thankless task.
87 mins: Another run from LuaLua, another overhit cross from Brighton's jazz maverick on the left.
86 mins: Simon McMahon writes, from his early bath:
"I feel I've let not just myself down again tonight but worse my teammates and most of all Matt Dony, cos not only is he right about my disciplinary record, I feel I jinxed Liverpool by congratulating them on winning the League about a month ago. But hey, at least we can laugh about it now, eh Matt?"
85 mins: A rare Derby attack, and Sammon gets the ball on the left with options in the middle, but the cross is like a weak lemon drink, and hits the first man, out for a corner.
83 mins: Mackail-Smith tries to break down the right, but is blocked off rather cynically by Forsyth. A yellow for you, young man.
82 mins: Another sub for Brighton, and Craig Mackail-Smith is on for Lingard. Meanwhile, Forster-Caskey wraps his arms around Bryson's waist in a move that, in any other situation, might be considered rather tender, but in this case it's considered rather worthy of a yellow card.
81 mins: Two fine saves in a minute from Grant - firstly the defence opens up for Lingard and he powers one down the middle which the Derby keeper batters away, then it falls to Ward who hits one from the left side of the area, and Grant tips it over. Excellent stuff from Grant.
80 mins: LuaLua lollipops his way down the left, but his low cross is bad, bad, bad. Derby are sitting back now. Could be an error.
79 mins: Wahey! Referee gets hit by the ball! Right in the head too! All this game needs is a proper fight now and it will be complete.
To be fair to the man in the middle, he took it like a champ and continued.
78 mins: Matt Dony has been totting up:
"That's at least the second red card Simon McMahon has received this season. Does that mean he's got an automatic two game suspension from MBM's?"
76 mins: The first thing Sammon does is try to wrestle March to the floor out on the right, fails, then lunges in on the young winger, and succeeds that time. Booking for Pob, and a particularly brainless one too.
75 mins: Steve McClaren is in the stands, toying with his mobile phone. Now, if Derby were rubbish, that would probably be latched onto as something to make fun of him over. Like an umbrella, for example.
74 mins: March makes an impact pretty quickly, running at Forsyth down the Brighton right, but his fired low cross is dealt with well by Grant, who then screams at someone or other for something or other.
72 mins: Les Brown has another niche lookalike:
"I'm sure it's an accident that they have the same initials, but George Best, had an uncanny resemblance to Giovanni Borgia."
Meanwhile, Conor Sammon/Pob comes on for Jamie Ward.
70 mins: Change for Brighton - youngster Solly March replaces Orlandi.
69 mins: Forster-Caskey and Ward make room for a cross, the cross goes in, it's overhit. Rinse, repeat.
67 mins: More frustration for Brighton - LuaLua makes tracks down the left and whacks a cross over, but there's nobody there in the middle. Becoming a theme, that.
66 mins: Simon McMahon gets his coat:
"Is Ulloa from Hawaii? Sorry, straight red."
65 mins: LuaLua is causing a few problems down the left with his directness, but Wisdom is doing OK with him at the moment. Meanwhile, Russell is replaced by Simon Dawkins for Derby.
64 mins: Looking back at that penalty claim from Ulloa, he may have had a point. Buxton had a proper handful of his shirt, hence the industrial outburst.
63 mins: Re: Calderon at 56 mins, David writes:
"Or rather, Calderon panicked and ordered a Fosters."
61 mins: Oh what a save! The ball breaks to Ulloa about eight yards out, he mis-hits his shot, it bounces into the ground and looks for the world like it will loop over Grant, but he somehow arches his back and tips it onto the bar. Smashing keeping, that.
60 mins: Ulloa tumbles to the ground under the slightest challenge from a corner, and after nothing is given he, shall we say, displays a full command of colloquial English.
58 mins: "Your shortage of correspondence may be due to the failure of your e-mail link," writes Lou Roper. Erm, yeah, erm, well-spotted. Just testing you. Should be fixed now.
"Anyway, I am very curious to know just what 'United standard' (22 mins) is these days: Tom Cleverley please step forward?"
56 mins: The ball falls to Calderon on the edge of the box, but like a man at the bar of a craft ale pub confused by the sheer number of beers on offer, he panics and smacks the shot way over the bar.
54 mins: LuaLua follows a fine family tradition by hoying a shot from way out high into the crowd.
Meanwhile Tom responds to the call to arms for more e-mails, and I think - I think - he might be a Brighton fan:
"OK, I'll jump in. Shitting bastard bollocking hell. Jammy Derby twuntfaces.
"(I'd never get that published on the Beeb text commentary, but since it's the Guardian I might have half a chance)."
52 mins: Brighton win a corner but make a total mess of it, and Ward counters at pace down the left. Keith Andrews takes stock, assesses the situation and commits perhaps the most cynical and arguably sensible foul you're likely to see. He gets a yellow, but he'll take that.
50 mins: Derby have started this second half like something of a train, but a couple of attacks have been repelled by the Brighton defence.
48 mins: Fingers being pulled out here. David writes:
"I always confuse Conor Sammon with Pob."
46 mins: The second half hath started, and with it a new player for Brighton. Will Buckley's injury means he can't continue, and he's replaced by Kazenga LuaLua.
And here's David Hopkins, very firmly living in the moment and enjoying the music concert he's at:
"VV Brown isn't on yet, but I have developed a new found love for Coldplay. Or Chris Martin at least. "
Only two people seem to be writing in at the moment, which is fine because they're both entertaining. But, y'know...pull your collective fingers out, the rest of you. Here's James Murton again:
"It's not quite as esoteric as your spot-on Jamie Ward lookalike, but Jake Buxton looks like Garry Bushell. Or Bluto from Popeye. Same thing, I suppose. I'm still terrified, incidentally - scoring a penalty AND getting a freak goal in our favour? Something's going to come and smack us back down soon, mark my words."
Well, this has been a belter. A fairly even game, but Derby go in ahead after that stroke of luck on the stroke of the break. Remember, no away goals count double nonsense in the playoffs, so while that goal is obviously important (it being a goal and everything), it isn't cataclysmic for Brighton.
45 mins + 2: Oh, Tomasz. Derby attack with gusto, Hendrick tries a shot that reaches Martin, who absolutely spanks a shot towards goal which tharrrumps off the bar, hits the back of the keeper and goes in. Oh, Tomasz.
Well, that's unlucky...
45 mins: Two minutes of added time. Anyone else got any obscure/esoteric footballer lookalikes? Pictures preferable, please and thanks.
44 mins: Buxton and Ulloa are receiving a ticking off from Mark Strong-lookalike referee Roger East, after some mutual rough-housing in the box.
42 mins: Buckley still doesn't look entirely happy. Not sure exactly what the injury is, although there was talk of some hamstring discomfort before the game.
40 mins: Ward, a professional pain in the arse and therefore a very useful player, buzzes down the left and clips a cross over, but it's half-cleared. Some uncertain defensive headers see the ball fall to Bryson, but he doesn't have much time and snaps rather at the shot, and it goes over.
39 mins: Another niche/vague lookalike thing - Richard Keogh looks and sounds like a minor character in a Shane Meadows film. Particularly when he's cross. Which he was just then, accusing Ulloa of going down rather easily in the area.
38 mins: Another great counter from Derby as Russell robs Ward down the right, he powers into the box but the cross is just beyond the man at the far post, via Kusczcak's palm.
36 mins: Ward gets a booking for a daft barge out on the Brighton right. Silly boy. Although he does look a lot like that kid at school that always got in trouble for something or other. And set fire to things using a box of matches and a can of Lynx Java.
35 mins: Big chance for Ulloa - an Orlandi cross is deflected high in the air and reaches the striker, free, around eight yards out, but his header is straight at Grant.
34 mins: It's the little things about football that are so great...
33 mins: Bit of a worry for Brighton, as Buckley goes down and requires treatment. He walks to the sidelines, which is promising for them. This update isn't awfully helpful, granted. Sorry.
31 mins: End-to-end now. Brighton attack straight away, but then Derby counter at some pace. Ward feeds Russell down the left side of the box, but there's nobody there to convert his low, dangerous cross about six yards in front of goal. Grand game, this.
29 mins: Martin sends Kusczcak the wrong way and puts the ball right into the left corner. And just like that, it's level.
28 mins: Forsyth breaks into the box through the middle, and Matt Upson wipes him out with a stupid challenge, and it's an easy decision for the ref.
27 mins: The corner is easily claimed by Derby keeper Lee Grant, and he launches a counter-attack. However, it doesn't really get anywhere - Derby have looked pretty disjointed since the goal, like a man smacked in the face by a comedy frying pan.
25 mins: Brighton claim a handball after Buckley smacks the ball at Forsyth's arm from about three yards away. Quite sensibly, only a corner is given.
24 mins: Scrappy period of play where both teams try rather hopeful aerial balls forwards, to no avail. More quick crisp passing on the floor, please chaps.
22 mins: He's looked very decent in the Championship for both Brighton and Birmingham this season, but United standard...hmmm, perhaps not.
20 mins: Good lord Derby go close to levelling straight away. Russell swings a free kick over from the right, and it eludes everyone, going just wide of the far post. Keogh was lurking, and seemed to hesitate and not fully go for the ball - if he had done, he might have scored.
18 mins: Brighton take advantage of their dominance, as Calderon breaks into the area from the right and cuts back to Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard, whose initial shot is blocked by Jake Buxton, but it falls straight back to the Brighton forward and he forces it into the net from about ten yards out.
17 mins: Jesse Lingard exchanges passes with Ulloa, then goes down in the box after contact from Keogh, but it was one of those 'Left his trailing leg in the way of the defender, flung himself to the floor' jobs, and the referee rightly gives nowt.
15 mins: Brighton on the attack again, with Orlandi whipping a couple of dangerous balls over from the right, inswinging with his left foot. They're on top now.
14 mins: Will Buckley drives into the box, and Richard Keogh thinks about chopping him down, but doesn't and eventually slams the ball against the Brighton man's shins, and wins a goal kick.
13 mins: Better, David. Much better. Obviously.
11 mins: More dangerous from Brighton now - Calderon gets down the right at pace, and whips a ferocious cross into the box, but it's headed behind for a corner.
10 mins: Brighton can't really get going here. Their passing isn't as crisp as Derby's, and they look the more nervous of the two sides. That said, Calderon goes down in the area under a challenge from Craig Forsyth, but nothing is given.
9 mins: ...which Craig Bryson wastes, uncharacteristically. One of the best and most underrated players outside the Premier League, is Bryson. He should be in the top flight with someone next season.
8 mins: First booking, as Hendrick breaks towards the box but is taken out by Inigo Calderon. Free kick on the left corner of the area...
6 mins: First decent chance of the game, and Derby work the ball very nicely around the edge of the area, Jamie Ward feeds Russell on the left side of the box and he fires a lowish cross over, but it flashes just in front of Chris Martin.
5 mins: Orlandi is lucky to get away without a yellow card for a horrible, late challenge on Jonny Russell. Oddly little consternation from the Derby lot about that one. Perhaps everyone is too nervous to complain.
3 mins: Not much has happened thus far. Andre Wisdom looked like he might have taken a foul throw, but it wasn't given. Then again, they never are, are they?
Meanwhile, James Murton is afraid:
"Oh God, it's just occurred to me we're actually in the play-offs. I feel like Father Ted realising he's on the wing of a plane. What are we doing here? I'm scared."
1 min: And they're off. Derby clad in a sort of rather horrible purpley-claret number, and Brighton in their traditional blue and white stripes.
Don Goodman thinks Derby might 'target' Brighton keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.
Well, you'd like to think so...
The teams are out on the pitch. No word on whether anyone has befouled the dressing room yet, though.
Aris Moro steps in to set the record straight, re: Brighton:
"A bit of an unfair comparison there between BHA and Birmingham. The Seagulls may not have the best attack, but also conceded 34 goals less than City and had the 2nd best defence in the league. Wigan and QPR have scored just a handful more than BHA."
David Hopkins is back:
"James Murton is dead right. This season has already been a triumph for the Rams simply by being enjoyable. In fact, so relaxed am I about the outcome tonight that I'm not even watching, but at a gig by trendy (read: low selling) singer VV Brown. Which I'll enjoy by checking you report every 30 seconds."
I was not familiar with the work of Ms Brown. Here she is, playing Jools Holland last year. Not bad.
"Please, please don't say 'By rights, Derby should walk this'" writes James Murton, quite rightly. "As a club we really don't need jinxing anymore than we already seem to be. In the last few years alone we've been blighted by the 07/08 season, being knocked out of cup competitions by Crawley, Shrewsbury and Scunthorpe (in a 5-5 draw followed by penalties), had owners imprisoned, signed Rob Earnshaw and been managed by both Paul Jewell and Phil Brown. It's hard to say just how much of a relief this season has been after all that tosh.
"That said, the game against Brighton at the iPro earlier this season was probably the worst of the season, two impressive defences comfortably handling two toothless (on the day) strikeforces, with only one real moment of quality to seperate us. Still, I'd settle for a repeat."
David Hopkins (presumably not the strawberry blonde former Leeds and Crystal Palace midfielder) writes:
"I think you're a bit off the ball with this 'clubs don't really want to get promoted' angle. As a Rams fan I can't think of any horrific, soul-sapping events that might follow a play off victory, and certainly not a full nine months of them. Oh wait, no, hold on..."
This monster from Them Crooked Vultures.
Join James Richardson, Barry Glendenning, Jacob Steinberg (him again) and Iain Macintosh for Football Weekly Extraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, in which they look back upon the midweek action, and forward to this weekend. As you might expect from a football podcast.
You've got 32 minutes to kill before kick-off, and there's no way you could have anything better to do than reading Jacob Steinberg's stunning World Cup moment: when Ronaldo nearly didn't play in the 1998 final.
It's excellent. And of course wewouldsaythatwouldn'twe, it really is.
Have some words from Steve McClaren, the man of the ever oscillating managerial reputation:
We’re close to the Premier League yet we’re a thousand miles away. We’re way ahead of schedule and if you’d have told me we’d make the play-offs at half-time of the first game against Ipswich, when we were 4-1 down, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I came here and signed for 2½ years and said I wanted to build a football club. I wanted to get the fans back, the place buzzing again and a good brand of football on the field. The fans have appreciated that so they’ve been coming back and now there’s a big buzz around the town. Stage one, for me, has been achieved.
Jumping to stage two is a big step and we’ve got an opportunity. We’ve bought our lottery ticket to win something big. Can we do it? This is a big test for all of us.
Those of you surprised to see Casper lookalike and hot young thing Will Hughes not among Derby's starting line-up - don't be. Despite scouts from up and down the land having a serious Jones for the kid, the form of Craig Bryson, Jeff Hendrick and George Thorne over the last few months of the season has meant the boy wünder has been rather familiar with the bench of late.
Kuszczak, Calderon, Greer, Upson, Ward; Andrews, Forster-Caskey, Lingard; Orlandi, Ulloa, Buckley. Subs: Brezovan, Chicksen, Dunk, Ince, March, LuaLua, Mackail-Smith.
Grant; Wisdom, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Thorne, Bryson, Hendrick; Russell, Ward, Martin. Subs: Legzdins, Whitbread, Eustace, Hughes, Dawkins, Bamford, Sammon.
David Moyes had a lot of problems as Manchester United manager. Not being Alex Ferguson was up there, which admittedly he couldn't do a huge amount about. Being left a lop-sided and aging squad that, basically, wasn't terribly good was another. However, the fundamental issue seemed to be that he didn't actually appear to really, truly, 100% want the job. He said he did plenty of times. He might even have convinced himself that he wanted it. But there was something in his eyes, and in his initial reaction to getting the gig (“As you can imagine, the blood drained from my face”) that said he was there because he thought he should be, that this was a job he couldn't turn down for fear of being called unambitious. You're supposed to want to 'better yourself' in football, so when something big and shiny comes along, you're meant to grab it, regardless of whether you're already happy where you are or not.
That sort of applies to teams in the Championship. Sure, they're supposed to want promotion, they're supposed to aim for the Premier League, they're supposed to 'better' themselves, but will they really be happy? The Championship is much more fun than the Premier League, really. There isn't as much pressure, it's cheaper, you don't get a shoeing from the big boys and, on the rare occasions you don't get a shoeing from the big boys, you're patronised to within an inch of your life, like a dog that's just learned not to crap all over the living room carpet.
This evening, Brighton and Derby begin the charade of trying to convince the world that they're really aiming for promotion, honest, and that they really, really, really want to play in the Premier League, where their every move will be scrutinised and anything short of a challenge for the European places will be treated as the sort of abject failure that must be mocked and scorned and spat upon.
The annual end of season jamboree of nerves is upon us, and the first Championship playoff semi-final is here. By rights, Derby should walk this. Frequently the most impressive side in the division (since Steve McClaren's appointment at least), they were still in with a vague sniff of automatic promotion, but not so close that they will be demoralised by failure to actually finish in the top two, they have already beaten Brighton twice this season, so asking them to do it twice more hardly seems fair.
Brighton on the other hand snuck into the top six by beating a half-hearted Nottingham Forest on the final day, finishing with a goals total so small that you basically need a set of binoculars to see it (they scored 55 in the regular season, fewer than Birmingham, who only stayed up on goal difference), and generally not being all that good for long stretches of the season. They also have the spectre of last season haunting them, when they were bested by their hated rivals Crystal Palace at this very stage, and then someone did a 'tummy shame' all over the dressing room floor. Not good.
Still, Oscar Garcia seems like a good chap, handsome in a bearded, large-chinned sort of way, and it's difficult to wish any ill upon them. Unless you're a Palace fan, of course. Or a cleaner at the Am-Ex.
Nick will be here shortly. In the meantime, here's how the two teams finished up in the final Championship table.