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Derby decent value to beat Brighton in play-off opener

No other Championship club kept more clean sheets than Brighton and Hove Albion during the regular season, with 20. That stat is belied, however, by the fact Derby County did the double over them.

It’s time for the play-offs, where admittedly anything can happen, but Coral make the Rams, who finished 13 points ahead of their opponents, an enticing price at 2/1 to hold a lead after this semi-final first leg by winning at the Amex.

Steve McClaren’s County are 9/4 favourites for Premier League promotion via this lethal lottery that comes around in the tiers below it at the end of every season. The Seagulls, meanwhile, are 10/3 outsiders to grace the top-flight.

Brighton, coached by Spaniard Oscar Garcia, are 6/4 for victory in the first leg, but only 11/10 to come through the tie and make the final, They may have second best defence in the Championship (40 conceded), but Derby scored the most goals (84) during the regular season, so are worthy odds-on favourites at 8/11 to reach Wembley.

There is precious little to choose between these two sides in terms of recent form. Both last suffered defeat against Middlesbrough. Albion are unbeaten in seven, scoring 16 and conceding just seven; while County are without a loss in six, having netted 15 and let in six.

A draw must thus be considered at 9/4, but the fact that the Rams have won on the south coast this term already means punters can be more positive. Odds of 6/1 on an away victory and both teams scoring are much more tempting.

Visiting centre forward Chris Martin netted 20 league goals during the regular season, including four in his last six, and has four in five career appearances against the Seagulls, including two on the south coast in August. He is 6/4 to score anytime, and 8/1 for two or more at the Amex again.

McClaren rested his leading marksman, and others, for the final game of the season, so Martin will come back in fresh up front. Box-to-box midfield maestro Craig Bryson must also be considered, after being given so much licence to get forward by the County head coach. He is 5/2 to net anytime.

In-form Irish counterpart Jeff Hendrick is also capable of doing a similar job. He may be benched in favour of Bryson but, with three in his last three, odds of 9/2 on him scoring here look sensational value. McClaren has no new injury concerns.

Hosts Brighton have been heavily reliant on Argentine striker Leonardo Ulloa to fire them into the top six. Between a fifth and a quarter of all their league goals have come from him. Ulloa has four in his last eight, but looks short at 11/10 to score anytime.

Manchester United loanee Jesse Lingard, meanwhile, has three in six from a wide berth. Odds of 6/4 represent better value on this talent being on target again.

Garcia must hope midfield anchor Keith Andrews and veteran centre half Matt Upson have shaken off knocks they were carrying in Albion’s last gasp win over Nottingham Forest. Dale Stephens and right back Bruno Saltor are definite absentees, however.

Back a repeat scoreline from the last meeting at the Amex, a 2-1 Derby win, and be rewarded with awesome odds of 11/1. If punters are convinced it will be cagey affair by the seaside, a 1-0 away victory is also enticing at 7/1.