Derby County

Brighton v Derby – Playoff Semi Final 1st Leg

Jaymes Monte previews the Championship play-off semi-final 1st leg between Brighton and Derby and picks out his best bets for the fixture.

Often in the play-offs you get one team coming into the game in a rich vein of form and the other having scrapped around for the final few games. That is not the case here.

Brighton will be full of confidence and buoyancy having secured their place in the play-offs with an injury-time winner against Nottingham Forest last Saturday, while Derby ended the season with a run of five wins and one draw in their last six matches.

The Seagulls snuck into sixth place on the final day after picking up 16 points from a possible 20 in their final eight games of the regular season. Top scorer Leonardo Ulloa scored the 90th-minute winner at the County Ground to take his tally for the season to 16 in all competitions. Former Manchester United goalkeeper Tomas Kuszczak has conceded just four goals in Brighton’s last six games, including two clean sheets in that period.

Derby were denied a sixth straight win by Leeds on the final day of the season, but with third place already firmly secured there was little to concern manager Steve McClaren.

Midfielder Jeff Hendrick has scored three in his last three games, while striker Chris Martin has four in his last five to take his tally for the season to 23.

Team News
Matthew Upson recovered from an ankle injury to take up his position in the starting XI at the weekend, and came through the match unscathed. Striker Craig Mackail-Smith made only his fifth appearance of the season (all from the substitute’s bench) at Nottingham Forest, and had a direct part to play in the winning the goal, supplying the inch-perfect cross for Ulloa’s header. It’s unlikely that he would return to the XI here, but he could again be an effective impact sub.

McClaren made six changes to Derby’s side for the draw against Leeds on Saturday with Jake Buxton, George Thorne, Craig Bryson, Jamie Ward, Johnny Russell and Chris Martin all rested. All six could return to the side.

Derby won both meetings between the two sides this season with Patrick Bamford getting the only goal of the game at Pride Park and Chris Martin scoring twice in a 2-1 win at Falmer Stadium. Leonardo Ulloa scored the opener for Brighton on that day.

Recommended Bets
Home advantage ensures that Brighton are the favourites in the Match Odds betting at 11/8, with Derby available to back at odds of 2/1. I’m always a little bit cautious about getting involved in the Match Odds market in the first leg of two-legged affairs, but there is certainly value in the price on the visitors who top the Championship form tables of the last six and ten games. Perhaps a bet on the Draw No Bet market where Derby are 21/20 is the best option.

Top scorer Chris Martin is an obvious selection in the Anytime Goalscorer market at odds of 6/4, but the 2/1 on Johnny Russell looks to be a better value bet. Over 2.5 goals at odds of 11/10 is also a good bet in a match involving two sides with plenty of goalscorer within their ranks.