Derby County's response to twin defeats delights boss Nigel Clough as ambitious Brighton loom
DERBY County's response to back-to-back defeats last month has delighted Nigel Clough.
Defeat by Hull City at Pride Park was followed by a 2-0 reverse against Burnley at Turf Moor on Boxing Day.
Clough's young team recovered to draw at Charlton in a game they perhaps should have won, given their dominance, and then beat Middlesbrough 3-1 on New Year's Day before dispatching Tranmere Rovers 5-0 in the FA Cup.
The Rams manager is hoping the results in the last three matches are a sign that the team are building some momentum for the second half of the season.
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They sit 10th in the Championship and only three points adrift of the top six ahead of tomorrow's game against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.
"We were very unfortunate against Hull and could have had something at Burnley," said Clough.
"We got a good point at Charlton when we should have won and we have had two victories since."
Brighton are on the same number of points as Derby, 37, and only above them on goal difference.
Their manager, Gus Poyet, says they will have only themselves to blame if they do not make the play-offs.
Poyet believes there are only "three or four" sides better than the Seagulls in the division and wants his players to grab a "great opportunity" to finish in the top six.
Clough also sees Brighton as top-six challengers.
"I think they are expecting to be in the play-offs, given the way they have invested," added Clough.
"They spent again in the summer and I think they are gearing up for a top-six challenge and the Premier League.
"They have extended the ground and they are getting good crowds.
"Their good win against Newcastle United in the FA Cup will give them even more confidence.
"They are one of the best footballing sides in the division, without doubt."
The teams drew 0-0 at Pride Park Stadium in October and the Rams have shown that they can go toe-to-toe with any side in the division.
"We defended well for about an hour of that game and had to," said Clough.
"Brighton dominated possession, which not many teams have done against us, but in the last 20 minutes or so, it looked like we were going to win it."
The quality of Brighton's football has been praised but Clough points to the Seagulls' defensive record as a key factor.
Poyet's side have the second best defensive record in the Championship behind Leicester City.
"Brighton keep a lot of clean sheets," said Clough.
"They have dominated possession in a number of home games and not put their chances away and not got the rewards.
"The win against Newcastle might just set that in motion, we hope not for Saturday."
Brighton have won four and drawn six of their 13 home games in the League.
Poyet says there have been missed opportunities.
He said: "We have had six or seven games at home that we didn't win that I'm sure won't happen in the next 20 years of my managerial career.
"We were so much better than the opposition it was scary.
"We are better than last year but it hasn't shown in the table and that is our fault."