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Amex Stadium (ATT 27,118) 8th May 2014 - Kick off 19:45

Brighton Brighton and Hove Albion vs Derby County Derby

Brighton 1

J Lingard (18)

ft

Derby 2

C Martin (pen 29)
T Kuszczak (og 45+2)

Sky Sports 1 HD

Championship play-off semi-final: Derby claim crucial 2-1 first-leg win at Brighton

Last Updated: 08/05/14 11:25pm

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Highlights: Brighton 1 Derby 2

An unfortunate own goal from Tomasz Kuszczak gave Derby a vital 2-1 win at Brighton in their Championship play-off semi-final first leg at the Amex Stadium.

The Rams were trailing to Jesse Lingard's 18th-minute strike on Thursday night, but Derby's top scorer Chris Martin levelled from the penalty spot before the half-hour mark for his 24th goal of the season.

The striker then saw his long-range effort in first-half stoppage time come back off the crossbar and bounce in off the back of luckless Seagulls keeper Kuszczak to ensure Derby take a slender lead back to the iPro Stadium for Sunday evening's return leg.

County, rejuvenated under former England boss Steve McClaren, were favourites going into the tie having finished 13 points ahead of their opponents and beaten them twice already this season, while they booked their play-off spot more than three weeks ago.

Brighton, by contrast, left it to the final minute of the final day to snatch sixth place from Reading, yet it was the hosts who drew first blood.

In the 18th minute, Andrea Orlandi and Will Buckley combined to send Inigo Calderon charging to the byline and the Spaniard's cut-back was turned in at the second attempt by Manchester United loanee Lingard.

But Derby drew level just before the half-hour when Craig Forsyth jinked into the area only to be halted by a clattering foul by Matt Upson.

It was an uncharacteristic and costly error from the former England international, Brighton's player of the year, as Martin stepped up to convert from the spot.

It only added to the frustration felt on the Brighton touchline, with Calderon and Leo Ulloa having been on the end of some dubious challenges in Derby's box but with no consequences for the visitors.

The play-off semi-finals can often be cagey affairs, particularly in the opening stages, but this one was nothing of the sort.

Brighton immediately went in search of the lead again and Ulloa's downward header was well saved by Grant.

But Derby looked the more dangerous side and Kuszczak had to palm away Johnny Russell's cross with Martin poised to apply the finish, before Craig Bryson fired a dipping shot over the crossbar.

And they went ahead in first-half stoppage time when Russell, with his back to goal, played the ball to the feet of Martin who crashed his shot against the woodwork and in off the prone Kuszczak.

Brighton came agonisingly close to an equaliser after the break, but Ulloa's volley was superbly tipped onto the same crossbar by Grant.

Grant was in inspired form after the break and also did well to keep out efforts from Lingard and half-time substitute Kazenga LuaLua as the Seagulls did their best to get back into the match.

But man-of-the-match Grant would not be beaten again as the Rams moved to within a clean sheet of reaching Wembley and the Championship play-off final.

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Matches

Table

Sky Bet Championship

Sky Bet Championship
Pos Team P Pts
1 Derby County 14 26
2 Watford 14 26
3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 14 26
4 Bournemouth 14 24
5 Middlesbrough 14 24
6 Norwich City 14 23
7 Nottingham Forest 14 22
8 Blackburn Rovers 14 22
9 Charlton Athletic 14 22
10 Ipswich Town 14 21
11 Cardiff City 14 19
12 Sheffield Wednesday 14 19
13 Brentford 14 19
14 Reading 14 18
15 Millwall 14 17
16 Rotherham United 14 17
17 Huddersfield Town 14 17
18 Leeds United 14 16
19 Wigan Athletic 14 15
20 Fulham 14 14
21 Brighton and Hove Albion 14 13
22 Bolton Wanderers 14 11
23 Birmingham City 14 11
24 Blackpool 14 6

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