Pro­mo­tion-chas­ing Brighton bashed Derby County on Fri­day

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Wil­liam As­ton

BE­FORE the sea­son started Derby had high hopes of se­cur­ing Pre­mier League football next term – but come the fi­nal whis­tle at the Amex Stadium they were shown by Brighton just how far they have still got to go.

While the Rams were cold on Fri­day night, hosts Brighton were red-hot and eased to vic­tory with goals from An­thony Knock­aert, Sam Bal­dock and Glenn Mur­ray.

Matej Vy­dra did hit the post with a header but at that point Derby were al­ready two goals down, and boss Steve McClaren ad­mit­ted they were taught a les­son as Brighton con­sol­i­dated their au­to­matic pro­mo­tion hopes with a 14th home win of the cam­paign.

“It was a les­son for my team and this showed how far Brighton have come,” McClaren said. “They are go­ing up for cer­tain. Mur­ray was a great sign­ing and Brighton are a team that are go­ing up.

“The gap showed. It was a re­al­ity check for us. We have played three games in a week and we couldn’t deal with the phys­i­cal­ity of that.

“That is the bench­mark of where we need to go. In the 16 months I was away teams have re­ally kicked on in terms of phys­i­cal­ity. The league has kicked on. We need to learn the lessons and kick on our­selves.

“I am con­fi­dent I can take it on, ab­so­lutely. We need to take the club on to the next level and from day one we knew that.

“The chair­man wants Derby in the Pre­mier League. We have all the re­sources and don’t need to panic. We need to pre­pare to face For­est on Satur­day and then take this club on.”

Brighton’s trio of Mur­ray, Bal­dock and Knock­aert have now scored 42 Championship goals be­tween them and it took the lat­ter just five min­utes to open the scor­ing against the Rams. The winger col­lected a pass from Bruno on the right, left Julien de Sart for dead and sent a low 20-yard shot past the dive of Scott Car­son and into the bot­tom cor­ner of the net.

Derby lev­elled al­most im­me­di­ately but Darren Bent’s down­ward header from a Cyrus Christie cross bounced over the bar.

But it was all the Seag­ulls and it was no sur­prise when they dou­bled their lead two min­utes be­fore half-time as de Sart tack­led Mur­ray but the ball fell to Bal­dock who coolly slot­ted home.

McClaren made a dou­ble change at the break, bring­ing on Will Hughes and Craig Bryson for de Sart and David Nu­gent and chang­ing the for­ma­tion to 4-3-3, but it did lit­tle to halt Brighton. Knock­aert’s 30-yard strike forced Car­son into a fine stop in the 54th minute, be­fore Vy­dra’s header from Christie’s cross came back off the post just after the hour mark.

But Brighton wrapped up all three points in the 78th minute as Mur­ray’s close-range shot was saved by Car­son only for the ball to re­bound off the striker and into the net.

Brighton man­ager Chris Hughton said: “We now have 77 points and there is no points tar­get from our last nine games.

“We’ve got some tough games com­ing up and ev­ery­body is fight­ing. But we’re on the back of a re­ally good per­for­mance against a re­ally good side. We were very good from start to fin­ish.

“The tim­ing of the first goal was piv­otal, the sec­ond just be­fore half-time lifted us and we were able to take that on.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

DREAM START: An­thony Knock­aert scores Brighton’s fifth-minute opener against the Rams

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