Quality of opposition a key factor in approach to match, says Clough
BRIGHTON'S quality had to be taken into account when it came to Derby County's approach to Saturday's Championship clash, said Rams manager Nigel Clough.
Derby, who usually play with two strikers at home, went in with Conor Sammon up top and Theo Robinson and Paul Coutts in the wide areas.
The Rams picked up a deserved point from a goalless draw against Brighton, who sit fifth in the table and have the joint best away record in the division.
No team has conceded fewer goals on the road than Brighton's three in five games.
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When asked about the formation, Clough said: "We always like to play with two up at home but sometimes you have to look at the effort that went in at Forest and Middlesbrough.
"Our energy levels weren't quite what they have been, so we had to play accordingly, because if we'd gone chasing Brighton, they might have cut us to ribbons with the quality they have.
"We certainly didn't want to play in a negative way.
"When we do play with two wide like we did, we want it to be a 4-3-3 but with Brighton's quality, they can push you back.
"We played against an extremely good side."
Derby lost one of their midfield three, Will Hughes, to injury at half-time.
They brought on Michael Jacobs and stuck to their shape. Robinson moved to the right side and Coutts switched to the centre of midfield.
"Yes, we were tempted to go two up in the second half but we were asking Theo to try to get close to Conor (Sammon) when he could," said Clough.
"It disrupted us a little bit, losing Will Hughes at half-time. We got Michael Jacobs on to get some crosses in and he did OK.
"At 0-0, we were not sparkling and energy levels were a little bit lower than they have been at home, generally.
"But as well as we played against Burnley in the previous home game, we got no points.
"If we can't win, we have to make sure we don't lose and that's exactly the sort of mentality we want from the players.
"A 0-0 draw is certainly better than a 2-1 defeat after playing so well."
Brighton manager Gus Poyet feels his team are heading in the right direction despite a third game without a win.
"I'm not saying we totally deserved to beat Derby but I think we were slightly better," Poyet said.
"I think we had the best chances and the best approach play.
"Of course, there was danger at the end with the fans and the atmosphere but I am going home relaxed. I liked what I saw."
Poyet would have enjoyed the journey even more if Dean Hammond had not headed wide of a gaping goal in the second half after Rams keeper Adam Legzdins had tipped the ball on to the bar.
"Three of our players were going for the same ball and pushing each other to try to score the winning goal but I call that football," he said.
"We accept things because you can't control everything."