MCCLAREN’S IN SIGHT OF RE­DEMP­TION AT WEM­B­LEY

The Football League Paper - - PROFILE ON - By Matt Bad­cock

BRIGHTON’S neme­sis Chris Martin had a big say as Derby County hopped in the driv­ing seat to inch Steve McClaren fur­ther up Wem­b­ley way.

The last time the County boss was at the home of English foot­ball was a dark, wet evening in Novem­ber 2007 that saw Eng­land miss out on qual­i­fi­ca­tion to the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

The for­mer Three Lions man­ager may have seen his rep­u­ta­tion washed away by Croa­tia back then, but in the years since he’s gone a long way to re­build­ing it.

He’s suc­ceeded in Hol­land with FC Twente but get­ting the Rams, who he took over in Septem­ber, into the Pre­mier League would be a huge step to­wards ul­ti­mate re­demp­tion.

The top scor­ers in the Cham­pi­onship, will now re­ally fancy their chances of fin­ish­ing the job.

Not that Brighton, who will have to cre­ate his­tory by be­com­ing the first side to over­come a first leg deficit in the Cham­pi­onship play­offs, should be dis­counted judg­ing by their start.

On the day the FA re­vealed con­tro­ver­sial plans to in­tro­duce a League 3 and al­low Pre­mier League B teams to play in the Pyramid, it was in­evitable a young pup would play a part.

Play­ers like Jesse Lin­gard would be go­ing up against the likes of FC Halifax and Kid­der­min­ster if the FA have their way. In­stead this on-loan Manch­ester United young­ster was thriv­ing in the elec­tric at­mos­phere of the play-offs.

Inigo Calderon, who had an ear­lier penalty shout waved away when he tan­gled with Craig Forsyth, was slipped in by Will Buck­ley’s clever back­heel as the home side caught Derby nap­ping at a free kick.

Calderon cut back for Lin­gard in space and af­ter his first shot was blocked by Jake Bux­ton he flashed the ball past Lee Grant.

It was first blood in a grip­ping open­ing 45 min­utes. For­get play­ing it cagey in the first leg and suss­ing each other out. The teams were play­ing as if in a win­ner-takes-all tie and Derby soon started play­ing their part by hit­ting back on the counter.

Deep in their own ter­ri­tory, An­dre Wis­dom lifted the ball to Johnny Rus­sell. He broke up­field be­fore spread­ing wide to Forsyth. The left-back bombed for­ward, ex­changed passes with Jeff Hen­drick, and surged into the box where Matthew Up­son’s ill-timed lunge sent him sprawl­ing. Martin coolly put the spot kick away. The for­mer Nor­wich City striker just loves it against the Seag­ulls – his fifth goal in eight games against them, hav­ing bagged two at the Amex Sta­dium on the open­ing day of the sea­son.

The 24-goal striker was in­volved in the sec­ond. Rus­sell set him on the edge of the box and his fierce drive crashed back off the bar, onto To­masz Kuszczak’s back and over the line. Brighton boss Os­car Gar­cia was in­censed by ref­eree Roger East wav­ing away Calderon’s penalty shout in the first half and he was fum­ing again in the sec­ond when Jake Bux­ton had a hand­ful of Leonardo Ul­loa’s shirt in the box.

The big Ar­gen­tine striker was Brighton’s fi­nal day hero when he scored the goal at Not­ting­ham For­est to take them into the post sea­son shake up. When he did get a sight of goal Grant made a bril­liant save to push his bounc­ing ef­fort onto the bar.

Grant was be­com­ing Derby’s most im­por­tant man. He par­ried Lin­gard’s drive be­fore bril­liantly tip­ping Stephen Ward’s shot from dis­tance over to keep Derby noses in front.

STAR MAN LEE GRANT

Derby

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