With a clear message ringing in their ears, Derby County answered their Head Coaches cry in two stages.
First came the ruthless 20 minute spell, in which the Rams blew Brighton & Hove Albion away with three early goals of the highest quality – two from Chris Martin either side of Johnny Russell’s delightful chipped finish – and second to show the ability to remain patient at the back to keep a clean sheet.
It could have been more too, but Brighton’s goalkeeper, David Stockdale, was in fine form to keep out efforts from Jeff Hendrick, Craig Bryson and Jordon Ibe in what was the first replay between the two sides since the Play-Off Semi-Finals last campaign.
How things have transpired from that memorable night back in May. Only one member of the visitors’ side from that night – Lewis Dunk – started the contest for Sami Hyppia’s team this afternoon.
Ahead of the game, Steve McClaren, the Derby Head Coach, called for a big reaction after his side had slumped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Leeds United.
With that message, Derby quickly got in their stride, moving the ball with purpose and putting the Brighton backline under intense pressure in a 20 minute spell where they, quite simply, blew the visitors away.
Chris Martin struck a low drive into the midriff of Stockdale after only two minutes as the home side penned the Seagulls into their own half and eight minutes later, the Rams got the goal their early dominance had warranted.
Sitting deeper and deeper, Brighton were inviting the pressure and a flowing move forward, after the Martin won the ball, was passed back to striker to waltz inside and lash a low left foot strike into the bottom corner.
Aside from Joao Teixeria’s tame effort wide of Lee Grant’s post, McClaren’s side continued to dominate the early proceedings and doubled their lead after only 15 minutes.
Another irresistible move forward carved out space on the left and after Johnny Russell a collected a pass from Craig Forsyth, the forward kept his cool and lifted a delicate chip over the onrushing Stockdale. Que delirium.
In an action packed opening 20 minutes, Darren Bent, on loan from Aston Villa, thought he had halved the deficit with a fine header, but the assistant referee’s raised flag on the far side brought travelling celebrations to a quick, and abrupt, halt.
The ball was soon in the back of the net, though, but at the other end of the pitch as Martin, ‘the scourge of Brighton’, added a third.
From the right, Cyrus Christie whipped in a high and dangerous cross to the head of Martin, who rose highest to head in beyond Stockdale.
Sami Hyppia introduced Rohan Ince after just 26 minutes in place of Teixeria in a bid to halt the slide and the visitors grew stronger as the first half went on.
Without causing the Rams’ backline significant problems, Brighton pushed higher and higher up the pitch as they bid to get back into the game.
Jake Forester-Caskey saw an effort deflected over the top of the bar by Omar Mascarell, but that aside, Derby held Hyppia’s side at arms length for the remainder of the first period.
The second half started in the same manner that the first had ended as Brighton pushed, harried, chased and pressed the Rams high up the pitch.
Their high intensity game led to them creating the early chances as Solly March wasted a good opening, before Derby got a grip of the contest again.
Simon Dawkins saw an effort fly wide after cutting inside from the left and Craig Bryson’s hard drive was spilled by Stockdale and as the ball tricked towards the back of the net, Lewis Dunk recovered to smash the ball to safety.
With the game approaching the hour mark, Dawkins danced inside one challenge before whipping a ball across the area.
The ball was only cleared as far as Bryson on the edge of the area, but as the Scottish midfielder wound up for a shot, the Brighton defence recovered to block his effort for a throw.
Five minutes later, Jeff Hendrick forced Stockdale into a fine one-handed save with a fierce effort and Bryson knocked a cute shot narrowly wide of the ‘keepers far post as the Rams piled on the pressure.
Still in the search of his hat trick, Martin whipped a low shot into the arms of Stockdale after a neat exchanges of passes with Bryson.
The effort was Derby’s last notable opening until the last minute of normal time as a patient passing move from Derby was worked to the feet of Jordon Ibe, the substitute, who worked a pass on to his left foot and hit a rasping shot that was beaten away by Stockdale.
That was to be the last of the chances, but the damage had already been done in the first 20 minutes and Derby answered McClaren’s calls and returned to winning ways at the first attempt immediately.
Derby County: Grant, Christie, Buxton (C), Shotton, Forsyth, Mascarell, Hendrick, Bryson, Russell (Ibe, 79), Dawkins (Ward, 75), Martin (Best, 90)
Substitutes not used: Roos, L Naylor, Eustace, Hughes
Brighton & Hove Albion: Stockdale, Bruno, Dunk, Hughes, J Bennett; Forster-Caskey, Gardner, March (McCourt, 68); E Bennett, Bent, Teixeira (Ince, 26)
Substitutes not used: Walton (GK), Calderon, Rea, Holla, Toko