REPORT: DERBY 0 ALBION 0
- Albion begin the season with a goalless draw
- Glenn Murray makes his second competitive Albion debut
- New signing Oliver Norwood was an unused substitute
- Albion are next in action on Tuesday against Colchester
Brighton & Hove Albion began the 2016/17 Sky Bet Championship season with a hard-fought goalless draw against Derby County in an absorbing contest at the iPro Stadium.
The result ensured a third consecutive stalemate between the sides, but Albion had plenty of reasons to be positive after an encouraging display against one of the early-season promotion favourites.
Chris Hughton made two changes to the starting 11 that faced Lazio six days' earlier, as Steve Sidwell replaced the suspended Dale Stephens and Jiri Skalak came in for Jamie Murphy.
Glenn Murray made his second competitive debut for the club, while new signing Oliver Norwood and under-23 defender Ben White were both included on the bench.
Derby had a chance to break the deadlock inside the opening five minutes, as Cyrus Christie’s cross was met by Darren Bent, but the ex-Albion loanee diverted his effort over the bar.
Tom Ince then forced a superb point-blank save from David Stockdale, who diverted the attempt to safety.
Ince then turned provider as his corner set up a chance for Jason Shackell, whose header went wide.
The attacking midfielder continued to be a threat for the Rams and forced another save from Stockdale with a close-range strike.
Albion had their first clear-cut chance of the game when Anthony Knockaert broke forward with pace and found Murray, whose angled strike was blocked by Scott Carson.
Gaetan Bong’s clever pass then found Beram Kayal in space, who weaved inside the Derby defence to the goalie but saw his cutback blocked.
The hosts showed their threat from set plays when Bent headed wide from Jeff Hendrick’s in-swinging free-kick.
Hendrick was involved in the thick of the action again to set up another former Seagulls loanee, Bradley Johnson, but his left-footed strike did not trouble Stockdale.
The Albion keeper was called into action moments later though, saving a deflected effort from Craig Bryson.
The visitors steadily grew into the game, as Skalak’s delivery caused uncertainty in the Rams defence and created a half chance for Murray.
Skalak then saw a fierce effort blocked, as Albion stepped up the pressure in the closing stages of the half.
Liam Rosenior made a driving run on the overlap to pick out Murray, but the Bournemouth loanee was thwarted with a goal-line clearance.
Tomer Hemed had a chance to break the deadlock within seconds of the restart when his half-volley forced a fine save from Carson. Lewis Dunk then headed wide from Knockaert’s subsequent corner.
Hughton’s men still looked the more likely to open the scoring, as Rosenior’s throw found Sidwell, who dragged a long-range shot wide.
Albion almost caught out the Rams defence with Bong’s quickly taken free-kick finding Murray, but the striker header the ball over.
The Seagulls continued to press; Sidwell played in Murray, but the forward was denied due to a brilliant defensive block by Shackell.
Kayal caught Christie out in possession to tee up Knockaert for a strike, only for the Frenchman to see his rasping drive go wide of the left-hand post.
Murray leapt inside the box to reach another Knockaert set-piece, but failed to make a decent connection in the box.
Derby substitute Will Hughes had a chance to claim all three points, but his deflected strike produced an outstanding save by Stockdale, although the linesman’s flag was raised.