Derby County have one foot in the promotion playoff final after a 2-1 over Brighton & Hove Albion in the first leg of their semifinal tie. An own goal proved to be the difference at The Amex, leaving the Rams a home result away from Wembley.
Brighton actually scored first and looked like they would have a successful home leg. They started well and in the 18th minute, scored through Jesse Lingard. The Manchester United loanee scored a tremendous goal and the home side were flying.
The lead didn't last long, though, and all of Brighton's good work in the early going went down the drain. Matthew Upson came through with a horribly late and silly challenge that made the referee's work easy as he pointed to the spot. Chris Martin then stepped to it and buried the penalty kick, bringing the visitors level.
Then, just before the halftime break, Derby got a fair bit of luck and, with it, a second goal. A laid back ball for Martin allowed him to hit a rocket from 20 yards that hit the post, but the ball came straight down, struck the sprawling Tomasz Kuszczak in the back and bounced in the net.
The match wasn't especially pretty, with long balls and hard tackles keeping both teams from developing rhythm. Brighton pushed for a second-half tally, but they missed a couple chances right in front of goal and Lee Grant denied them on a couple occasions. They will be disappointed not to have created more chances from their dominant possession, but Derby also defended well and got fortunate when they needed a bit of luck.
Now the tie turns to Derby, where the Rams just need a draw to advance. That match will be on May 11.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Kuszczak, Greer, Calderon, Ward, Upson, Andrews, Caskey, Buckley (LuaLua 46'), Orlandi (March 70'), Ulloa, Lingard
Goals: Lingard 18'
Derby County: Grant, Forsyth, Keogh, Buxton, Wisdom, Bryson, Hendrick, Thorne, Martin, Ward (Sammon 72'), Russell (Dawkins 66')
Goals: Martin 29', Kuszczak OG 45+2'