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DERBY COUNTY PLAY-OFF BUILD-UP: Johnny Russell says iPro Stadium will be "rocking" tomorrow

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 10, 2014

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THE iPro Stadium will be rocking as Derby County try to book their place at Wembley, according to forward Johnny Russell.

The Rams take on Brighton in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final tomorrow, kick-off 5.15pm.

Steve McClaren's men have a 2-1 lead from Thursday's first leg on the south coast and are 90 minutes away from reaching the final at the national stadium.

Russell believes the fans can play a crucial role in helping Derby's quest to win promotion to the Premier League.

"I thought both sets of fans were brilliant on Thursday," he said.

"Our fans have been brilliant all season, home and away.

"They've given us a massive boost at times, when we've really needed it.

"Hopefully, it will be the same again on Sunday.

"We know for a fact that the place will be rocking."

With a one-goal lead and home advantage, Derby will be favourites to go through - but Russell sounded a note of caution.

"Hopefully, it will prove to be a very important lead," he said.

"We went there to get the result and we've managed to do that.

"But we won't be going back to the iPro to try to simply defend that lead.

"We like to play attacking football and that's what we hope to do at home.

"We all knew how tough a game it was going to be. So it proved and we were pleased to get the win.

"But it will mean nothing if we don't do our jobs properly in the second leg on Sunday."

Despite the result, Russell believes the Rams can improve on Thursday's performance.

"The manager (Steve McClaren) said we can play better, which we know we can," he said.

"I don't think we gave a full account of what we can do.

"There was an extra edge to the game and I think we started a little bit nervy, which wasn't like us.

"But once we settled into the game, I thought we played some good stuff.

"We got into the second game and it's all about trying to control that.

"We know what's at stake and we know what we need to do. It's up to us to finish the job.

"We know how tough a game it will be at our place.

"They won't change the way they play, so it's up to us to play to our strengths.

"Hopefully, we can get the result at the end of it."

At Brighton, Derby fell behind to Jesse Lingard's 18th-minute opener.

But they levelled just before the half-hour through a Chris Martin penalty.

In first-half stoppage time, the Rams went ahead when Martin's shot hit the bar and went in off Seagulls keeper Tomasz Kuszczak.

After the break, Derby had to defend stoutly to hang on to their advantage - and were indebted to goalkeeper Lee Grant and the back four, in particular.

"We knew how quick they were going to come out of the traps - and they did," said Russell. "They made it really hard for us.

"They played a lot of nice stuff and got the goal.

"But with the character we've got in the squad, we know we can always get a goal back - and we managed to do that.

"Then we got another just before half-time, which was a bitter blow for them.

"In the second half, we knew they were going to come back at us - and they did that.

"I think they were the best team in the second half but Granty and the back four were tremendous on the night.

"They’ve been superb all season.

"They don't always get a lot of credit, because of the football we've played, attacking-wise.

"But they are just as important at the back. Some of the blocks and saves they make are absolutely vital.

"You saw two sides to our game - we played well at times and then when we had to dig in, we did."

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