Brighton 2-1 Derby
12/1/13 - 3.00pm
Albion made it 3 wins from 3 since the turn of the year as they beat fellow play-off hopefuls Derby 2-1 at the Amex.
An ultra clinical first 45, with goals from Ashley Barnes and Andrea Orlandi, saw the Seagulls stroll to a 2-0 lead with seemingly little threat from the visitors - but a second half goal from Jeff Hendrick nearly sparked a Rams comeback, as Poyet's men hung on in for the victory.
An early goal tends to settle the nerves, and they don't come much earlier than Barnes' opener. A quick through-ball from Inigo Calderon put fellow Spaniard David Lopez into the area, where he calmly picked out Barnes who converted from close range to fire the Seagulls ahead with just 2 minutes on the clock.
Up the other end, Conor Sammon's industry saw him dispossess the Seagulls defence, before shifting the ball to Paul Coutts, whose effort was shut down by a timely block from Adam El-Abd. Sammon then caused further havoc, finding his way into the box - but Will Buckley, tracking back from his position on the wing, was on hand to foil the Irish striker as he was about to pull the trigger.
Regaining their composure, Albion responded by showcasing their new-found clinical edge, as Orlandi doubled the hosts' lead. Calderon was fed the ball by David on the right wing, where he proceeded to place a superb out-swinging cross onto the head of the on-rushing Orlandi, who powered home to notch his 2nd goal in as many games.
Derby came out with greater urgency in the second half, but it was the hosts who had a succession of chances early on to extend their lead. First Will Buckley pounced on some indecision from Kieron Freeman, racing clear before squaring to Barnes, only for Gareth Roberts to throw his body in the way.
Calderon then wasted a free header, before Buckley again found himself through on goal, eventually forcing a smart save from Adam Legzdins from a tight angle. Albion then spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to add a third and put the game to bed. Barnes expertly fed Buckley, whose first time short looped up into the path of Orlandi, but the midfielder somehow shot straight back at Legzdins from 4 yards with the goal gaping.
The crowd sensed that miss could prove costly, and County began to grow in belief as they looked for a response. Indeed, they found a way back into the contest when Jamie Ward's low free-kick was turned home by Hendrick, who had escaped his marker. Clough's men by this point had the wind in their sails, as they continued to build the pressure on the Seagulls' back-line.
The equaliser never came, however, as the Albion held firm for an important 3 points to lift them to 8th in the table, 3 points off the play-off spots.