By Tim Hodges from the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Derby County 0
The Albion got back to winning ways on Tuesday evening as they cut Derby County down to size with a 2-0 win.
The result sees the Seagulls go fourth in the Championship and firmly back in the play-off places.
Goals from the recalled Inigo Calderon and Ashley Barnes helped the Albion maintain their unbeaten home league record in 2012.
Sam Vokes was preferred to Craig Mackail-Smith and Vicente Rodriguez started a second consecutive match as the Albion looked to bounce back from defeat at Blackpool. Lewis Dunk also returned to the starting line-up as Adam El-Abd was unwell.
Kazenga LuaLua and Vicente tormented the Rams all evening and were instrumental in both Albion’s goals
The first of these came from a Vicente corner that Calderon stooped to head past Frank Fielding via the knee of the Nathan Tyson as Derby’s defence seemed surprised by the pace of the delivery.
Calderon celebrated by stuffing the ball up his shirt possibly in reference to an impending arrival.
The Spaniard was obviously delighted to get on the scoresheet.
LuaLua and Vicente were the outlet every time Albion had possession, Albion’s intricate passing style allowed Vicente especially to receive the ball where he likes, a yard or two in front of him. He was causing Tom Naylor and Jake Buxton all kinds all trouble as the extremely tall Jason Shackell was preoccupied with the more robust Sam Vokes.
With Joe Mattock marauding into space down the left where possible and LuaLua almost hugging the touchline, Derby really had their work cut out.
A free kick that looked to have been perfected on the training ground just failed to work for the Seagulls, Vicente central to its execution.
Derby had their chances. Tyson swivelled on a cross-field pass but Peter Brezovan held his volley well.
Then Brezovan had to use all his height to tip a Buxton header over the bar.
A long punt upfield by the Albion keeper set LuaLua away. He made it clear off two defenders but, with only the keeper to beat, he shot straight at Fielding. It was, however, uncharacteristic play from the Seagulls that really caught Derby by surprise.
Before the half was out Shackell was booked for a crude challenge on Barnes.
Buxton and Jeff Hendrick both a good chances to equalise as the second half got going as Derby themselves tried to keep the ball. But the industry of both Alan Navarro and Liam Bridcutt in the centre of Albion’s midfield put pay to most of their intentions.
LuaLua whipped in a cross as the game moved from end to end but it fell to Gordon Greer just on the edge of the six-yard box and the Seagulls captain was just unable to connect.
Vicente was now drifting in from a wide position and running at Derby at every opportunity. Frankly the Rams defence looked petrified as time and again the Spaniard whipped inviting crosses in to the box.
Mackail-Smith then replaced the injured Vokes as Albion kept up the pressure.
LuaLua, not to be outdone, was beating Naylor for fun. He then skipped past two Derby defenders, flicked the ball to Vicente who, unchallenged, teed up Barnes from about 12 yards. The top scorer smashed the Seagulls 2-0 in front with his tenth of the season.
LuaLua cutting in from the touchline saw an effort tipped over by Fielding but it was Vicente who was having a field day.
First he collected the ball and appeared to evade the challenges of about six Derby players then, picking the ball up on half way, he ran at goal shrugging off defenders twisting and jinking almost reminiscent of a young Maradona. He then unleashed a fearsome drive, which almost broke the crossbar before bouncing to safety.
This was his last involvement as he was replaced by Abdul Razak and left the field to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Derby had a few chances in the time that was left, Brezovan tipping a couple of efforts over and blocking one from close range, from Davies, with his feet, but the Albion were always in control.
The Seagulls go to Nottingham Forest on Saturday as this remarkable season just keeps on getting better.
Brighton: Brezovan, Calderon, Greer, Dunk, Mattock, Navarro, Bridcutt, Vicente, Barnes, Vokes, LuaLua. Subs: Ankergren, Noone, Mackail-Smith, Vincelot, Razak.
Derby: Fielding, Naylor, Shackell, Buxton, Roberts; Bailey, Hendrick, Green; Tyson, Steve Davies, Robinson. Subs: Severn, Ben Davies, Carroll, Ball, Connolly.
Referee: Darren Sheldrake (Surrey)