Match report by Patrick Gleeson
Albion had to withstand a nervy second half against a determined Derby side to secure their 3rd win in a row and continue their push towards a play-off spot.
Goals from Ashley Barnes and Andrea Orlandi in the opening 25 minutes ensured that Albion went into half time with the lead, but when Jeff Hendrick pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 70th minute it sparked the search for an equaliser, but the hosts did well to deny everything that was thrown at them to claim all 3 points and climb a place in the Championship able to 8th, just 3 points adrift from a place in the top 6.
Gus Poyet was without top-scorer Craig Mackail-Smith for the fixture because of a hamstring niggle which allowed Ashley Barnes the chance to return to his natural position of striker, and the 23-year-old looked hungry from the off.
As David Lopez weaved in and out of the Derby players on the wing, Barnes had positioned himself perfectly to tap the ball into a gaping net when the Spaniard eventually drilled the ball into the box.
As the home side grew in confidence, the noise from the stands grew in volume and it wasn’t long until Brighton doubled the lead. A delicious cross from Inigo Calderon, who had returned to the starting line-up after a recent knee injury, was met by his compatriot Andrea Orlandi who headed past Adam Legzdins in the Derby goal.
The half ended on a sour note for the Rams as their young starlet Will Hughes was forced off with an injury, being replaced by the Northern Irishman Jamie Ward.
Will Buckley had the chance to put the game to bed just before the hour mark when he raced through on goal, but Legzdins did well to make himself big and eventually get the ball behind for a corner.
It was then that the tide started to turn and Nigel Clough’s men upped their energy levels, and when Liam Bridcutt committed 2 dubious fouls around the edge of the box, Derby were given a free kick. Jamie Ward whipped the set-piece towards the near-post and Jeff Hendrick’s quick thinking allowed him to sweep the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak who had been largely untested previously.
As Derby piled forward in search of a goal to level the game, the tension transmitted from the crowd created a somewhat hesitant approach from Albion and they began to invite pressure onto themselves. Kazenga LuaLua and Gary Dicker were introduced in place of Will Buckley and Andrea Orlandi to try and sure things up, but neither managed to get a foothold in the game. Liam Bridcutt produced another sterling performance and his neat footwork to round 4 oncoming players and escape with possession demanded a standing ovation from the 25,464 in attendance.
Despite Theo Robinson taking to the field to inject some pace into the Rams attack, the determination not to concede another late goal at the Amex saw the Albion defence repel everything that was launched at them, and as the ball was lumped in from a free kick on the half way line in the dying seconds of the game, the entire Brighton team stepped up as one and the flag was raised for offside.
Derby drop to 12th after the loss but Albion maintain their 100% record of 2013 and keep their play-off dreams well and truly alive.