Johnny Russell: Derby Wembley final comes as early surprise

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Russell revels in 'brilliant' Rams win

Derby County striker Johnny Russell admits reaching the Championship play-off final and challenging for promotion has come sooner than expected.

Derby will play either Wigan or QPR in the Wembley decider, after beating Brighton 4-1 on Sunday to clinch a 6-2 aggregate semi-final victory.

Russell, 24, said he was lured to Derby from Scottish side Dundee United by the club's Premier League ambitions.

"I didn't think for a second it would be in my first season," said Russell.

Talking to BBC East Midlands Today, Russell continued: "When I signed, that was one of the main things we spoke about - we wanted to be pushing into the play-offs.

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Rams owners excited by Wembley final

"We've worked hard to get there and there is no way we are going to be giving it up without a fight."

Since former Rams boss Nigel Clough signed Russell for about £750,000, the Scot has scored nine goals in 42 Rams appearances.

Russell played a part in Derby's third against Brighton on Sunday with George Thorne volleying home after the Seagulls' defence failed to clear the striker's initial threat.

The Rams, who led 2-1 after the first leg, extended their advantage before half-time with Will Hughes flicking in a Jamie Ward cross.

Chris Martin, Thorne and Jeff Hendrick completed the convincing victory before Kazenga Lua Lua netted a late consolation for the visitors.

Derby defender Richard Keogh said carrying momentum from the emphatic semi-final to Wembley will be important.

"To win that way was fantastic - hopefully we can keep that going and finish the job off," he said.

"We've had a fantastic season so far, played some great stuff, scored a lot of goals and played entertaining football, and that is what our mentality was coming into the play-offs.

"We have worked so hard to get here, we didn't want to let the opportunity pass us by."

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