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Derby County making surprise loan swoop for Darren Bent

Following the recent rumour that Darren Bent was at the centre of a tug of war between bitter rivals Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace, it has now emerged the Aston Villa-owned frontman is to join odds-on 8/11 promotion chances Derby County on loan.

Local radio reports say ex-England international Bent, 30, will hold talks with Rams head coach Steve McClaren about spending the rest of the season at Pride Park. This is a bitter blow for 4/1 Championship relegation chances Brighton, who were keen to extend the striker’s spell on the south coast after he was temporarily down there in December.

There had been speculation that both new Seagulls boss Chris Hughton and incoming Eagles manager Alan Pardew wanted Bent to bolster their respective battles against the drop in England’s top two tiers. Instead, he is set to boost Derby’s promotion push, but will face tough competition to get into the XI.

Rams top scorer Chris Martin has kept out Republic of Ireland international Leon Best, who is spending the season on loan at the East Midlands outfit from Blackburn Rovers.

Bent, meanwhile, is likely to want assurances from McClaren about regular football, having been left on the bench by Villa boss Paul Lambert throughout the autumn despite an injury crisis in attack.

Even if the deal is done on Friday, Bent will not be eligible to play in County’s FA Cup third round tie against Southport, so he would make his debut against first club Ipswich Town the following weekend.

Brighton have recalled Craig Mackail-Smith and Chris O’Grady from respective loan spells at Peterborough United and Sheffield United, while Palace are bringing Glenn Murray back from Reading for Pardew to assess him.

Derby sit third in the table and trail Championship leaders Bournemouth by just three points, with upcoming league opponents Ipswich also ahead of them. McClaren’s men are 11/4 second-favourites to lift the title.