BARNSLEY missed a valuable opportunity to gain ground in their fight to stay in the Championship as they were clearly second best in a 2-0 defeat at Derby County.
With two back-to-back wins and three from their last four, this was billed as a game the Reds had to at least get something from, a win potentially creating a much-needed five-point gap between them and fellow strugglers the Rams.
The first of three games coming up against sides in the bottom four, victory here – with Reading above them also losing to Milwall – was not quite a must for the Reds, but would’ve definitely boosted their already relatively high confidence.
The mood in Barnsley’s camp has been buoyant after their recent exploits, but on the other side of the coin, with every point gained comes the added burden of knowing that righting their faltering season is still in their own hands.
And that pressure told as a frantic Reds side never looked controlled in the face of an assured Derby side whose football belied their league standing and much discussed off-field issues.
There was a hint of offside to Ravel Morrison’s 22nd-minute opener, but no doubting the quality of Derby’s passing with Lawrence playing the ball in which Morrison let run for Plange, who played a cute pass back to Morrison for his first goal since a League Cup game with Salford in August.
Today’s opponents came into the match two points below the Reds in 23rd, having lost both their last two games 1-0, away at Luton Town on Saturday and then Cardiff City on Tuesday night.
But the Rams extended their impressive form at home, with nine league wins at Pride Park this season.
This match was also the first of five in 14 days before the final international break for Barnsley, with the side surely needing to win at least one of them to stay in contention for survival.
It was the first of three games against other sides in the bottom four, with Reading and Peterborough to visit Oakwell next month.
In the absence of Jordan Williams, the Reds took up more of a traditional back four mimicking the hosts’ 4-2-3-1 with Callum Brittain reintroduced to the starting lineup after returning in recent weeks from injury.
Unlike Williams’ right centre-back role in a back three, which allowed him to roam upfield past Callum Styles on the right, Brittain looked overwhelmed at right-back in the opening exchanges as Derby left-back Festy Ebosele and returning talisman Tom Lawrence combined on that side.
Matty Wolfe in holding midfield, looking to support the full-back, was booked for a late lunge on Max Bird, then the resulting set-piece was not dealt with which saw Luke Plange go close from the left. Wolfe was lucky not to get sent off for another rash tackle a few minutes later.
Domingos Quina had Barnsley’s first shot on target but it was no trouble for Ryan Allsop, the midfielder cutting in from the left but looking indecisive as he struck a limp effort.
Quina then whipped another inswinging ball towards goal, in the 20th minute, but the side’s disjointed build-up play was a stark contrast with the Rams’ measured control of the ball.
Carlton Morris aimed to grab the Ram by the horns as he broke up the right and cut into the box, but his close-range strike was blocked by the legs of Allsop.
Morrison rattled the crossbar from long-range half an hour in, after being afforded plenty of time to tee one up by a retreating Reds defence.
The former England youth player netted his second of the afternoon almost immediately from the kick-off as he played through Lawrence, who crashed an effort off the crossbar which Morrison was in prime position to convert on the rebound.
Malcolm Ebiowei, a teenager making his full debut for the Rams, then went close as he picked up on a poor pass out from Mads Andersen to curve an effort toward the far post from the right.
An hour in, Morris was tripped on the edge of the box then produced a good free kick which Allsop did well to tip over.
Clarke Oduor returned to the team for the first time since December as a substitute for Claudio Gomes, and took up position on the right wing with Styles moving into the centre alongside Josh Benson, another second half sub.
But the home side had done all their talking in the first hour, and were content to let the final moments peter out to a dull conclusion – Amine Bassi whipping a free kick past the left upright was the closest Barnsley got to reviving the game.
  • 1:18pm
    We're here today at Pride Park for Barnsley's huge six-pointer against Wayne Rooney's Derby County.
  • 1:36pm
    BARNSLEY can create a much-needed five-point gap between them and fellow strugglers Derby County today, but head coach Poya Asbaghi is not getting ahead of himself on their chances of staying in the league.
  • 1:50pm
    Today's opponents are now two points below the Reds in 23rd, having lost both their last two games 1-0, away at Luton Town on Saturday and then Cardiff City on Tuesday night.
  • 1:51pm
    Team news coming up in the next ten minutes...
  • 2:00pm
    Team news: Callum Brittain comes in for Jordan Williams in Barnsley's only change.
  • 2:01pm
    BARNSLEY: Collins, Brittain, Helik, Andersen, Styles, Vita, Gomes, Wolfe, Quina, Bassi and Morris.
  • 2:01pm
    SUBS: Walton, Kitching, Halme, Palmer, Benson, Oduor and Cole.
  • 2:02pm
    DERBY: Allsop, Byrne, Bielik, Bird, Lawrence, Morrison, Ebiowei, Davies, Ebosele, Cashin, Plange.
  • 2:03pm
    SUBS: Roos, Stearman, Buchanan, Thompson, Knight, Sibley, Kazim-Richards.
  • 2:08pm
    The Rams have been impressive at home, winning eight league games there this season including five out of six, the other being a draw, before last week’s 2-1 defeat to Millwall. They’ve played two more games than Barnsley.
  • 2:23pm
    Saturday was the longest the Reds have had to wait in a single season for back-to-back league wins since 2013/14, when Danny Wilson took over at the turn of the year and saw his side beat Reading 3-1 and then Yeovil 4-1 in March.
  • 2:25pm
    But that side only won once more that year and were ultimately relegated.
  • 2:26pm
    Asbaghi said: “Sometimes results go your way, another day it’s the opposite. “We cannot focus too much on that. “In the end we want three points, nothing more than that, but of course we feel we have a little bit of momentum and we’re playing better football. “We’re working as a unit now much better than we did a month ago. “We have to take advantage of the situation we are in right now, the confidence we have, and take it into Derby.”
  • 2:28pm
    This match is also the first of five in 14 days before the final international break, with Barnsley surely needing to win at least one of them to stay in contention for survival.
  • 2:30pm
    A year ago, Barnsley were about to enter the play-off places following a seven-game winning run.
  • 2:31pm
    But it’s the season prior the side will be looking towards for inspiration, when a three-win run in February kicked off hopes of a ‘Great Escape’ that went right down to the wire, Clarke Oduor scoring to secure victory at Brentford in the final minutes of the season.
  • 2:33pm
    But Asbaghi will not get drawn into talk of replicating that dramatic campaign.
  • 2:35pm
    Of course it would be a great thing for the club, for all the people involved, but my focus right now is on Derby. “We still have a lot of games left, we didn’t win five points or seven (against Middlesbrough and Hull City), we only won three, and that’s what we take with us.
  • 2:37pm
    “But we have to do what we’ve always done after a loss or a draw, or after a win, of course we’re going to enjoy the victory and I hope the fans do the same. “But when I wake up, we don’t think about anything else except Derby. “Right now, it’s more fun to play football games for this team than it was a month ago, so of course we are eager to play. What was it that made us win this game? What is it that we can still improve? “If you look at the last half an hour, there are definitely things that we need to improve as well. Let’s do that in a good way, then make sure we can do just as good a performance against Derby.
  • 2:38pm
    “They are aware of it, and especially the players that have been in this situation before, they are not the most experienced players in age but a lot of them have been through this kind of situation before. They are good at also spreading the calm amongst other players, and explaining as well what is important in this situation.”
  • 2:40pm
    Middlesbrough – who shocked Tottenham with a 1-0 win in the FA Cup fifth round on Tuesday – and Derby were the last two teams to send Barnsley down, in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
  • 2:42pm
    County have not beaten Barnsley in the sides’ last three meetings. They lost 2-0 at home last season under Philip Cocu then drew 0-0 at Oakwell in March with new boss Rooney saying Ismael’s Reds were the most direct team he had ever seen.
  • 2:44pm
    They returned to Oakwell in November and took the lead through Sam Baldock but Victor Adeboyejo’s deflected strike and Aaron Leya Iseka’s winner secured a victory for caretaker Jo Laumann days after Markus Schopp’s sacking.
  • 2:44pm
    Former Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is said to have been in failed takeover talks at the club, which has been in administration since September – while the EFL said it’s still awaiting evidence confirming Derby’s financial viability.
  • 2:46pm
    This is the first of three games against other sides in the bottom four, with Reading and Peterborough to visit Oakwell next month. Barnsley are six points from safety, with Reading above them due to play Millwall – who are in the middle of a good run in which they’ve won their last four and only lost one in seven, to leaders Fulham.
  • 2:48pm
    While Derby had to travel to Cardiff this week, Asbaghi has had the benefit of more time on the training ground. Cauley Woodrow, Oduor and Victor Adeboyejo are still not in contention, but a video of the former in the gym was shared to social media earlier this week as he recovers from knee surgery.
  • 2:49pm
    Barnsley beat Middlesbrough 3-2 on Saturday, with January loan signing Amine Bassi scoring twice and assisting one goal – and being named in the Championship team of the week, alongside his Swedish head coach.
  • 2:51pm
    Mads Andersen, captain in Woodrow’s absence, scored his first league goal of the season early in the game. “The confidence we have now and the run we’re in, I don’t see why we shouldn’t keep going,” said the defender.
  • 2:51pm
    “We were in the same situation two seasons ago, and now we have the momentum and it’s just keeping that going and being confident and positive. “It’s not over until it’s over and I 100 per cent believe we can do this.
  • 2:54pm
    “Confidence in scoring goals, and also how we stand in the low block like we did in the second half (against Middlesbrough), and in getting clean sheets like in the last game (against Hull City). It gives us a big boost. “That’s the momentum we have to keep. We are focused on our results, we cannot affect the other games.”
  • 3:00pm
    1 The Reds get us underway.
  • 3:01pm
    1 It's very windy here at Pride Park - the conditions could play a part today.
  • 3:03pm
    3 Neither side has taken control of the game so far - it looks like the Reds are playing a flat back four, Vita and Brittain full backs.
  • 3:06pm
    6 Derby have settled down a bit now - Barnsley struggling to keep hold of the ball when they have it.
  • 3:06pm
    Matty Wolfe booked for a very late challenge on Bird.
  • 3:07pm
    7 It's a good chance for Lawrence to whip the ball in for the home team.
  • 3:08pm
    8 Derby should take the lead as Plange has all the time in the world but he somehow misses the goal. Let-off for the Reds.
  • 3:08pm
    9 Some more pressure from the Rams and they now have a corner.
  • 3:09pm
    10 Nothing comes from the corner but Derby still have possession.
  • 3:12pm
    12 Ravel Morrison has a good chance to head home but his effort doesn't reach Collins in goal. Derby completely on top and Barnsley really struggling in the opening minutes.
  • 3:14pm
    15 Quina has Barnsley's first shot of the game but its weak and straight at Allsop. Easy for the Rams keeper.
  • 3:15pm
    15 Wolfe with another really late challenge and the referee tells him to calm down. Could have easily been a second yellow.
  • 3:18pm
    18 Barnsley have had a little bit more of the ball in the last few minutes but aren't really doing much with it.
  • 3:19pm
    19 Quina picks up the ball and runs forward but his cross is straight into the arms of Allsop.
  • 3:21pm
    22 Ravel Morrison scores fro Derby
  • 3:23pm
    23 It's good play from the home side which ends in Morrison chipping Collins.
  • 3:24pm
    24 It's a deserved lead for the home side - Barnsley are second to every ball. Asbaghi brought the players in for a mini team talk after the goal.
  • 3:26pm
    26 Carlton Morris does absolutely brilliantly to pick the ball out of the sky and then dribble past a few defenders. He shoots and Allsop saves, corner Reds.
  • 3:26pm
    27 Allsop punches out but Barnsley still have the ball.
  • 3:27pm
    27 Bassi plays a neat ball over to Styles at the far post but his header across goal is poor and out of play.
  • 3:30pm
    31 Lawrence breaks free into Barnsley's box but a great Andersen block stops the attack. Barnsley look quite poor here.
  • 3:32pm
    32 Ravel Morrison rattles the crossbar. He's not scored in the league all season, he could have had two in 32 minutes.
  • 3:33pm
    33 Morris does well again to break free - Barnsley have four on two. He passes it to his leg, no-one there.
  • 3:36pm
    36 The Reds are still really struggling. Apart from a few half-chances Derby haven't looked in any trouble. Asbaghi will have to rile his team up here if they're going to come away with anything.
  • 3:37pm
    37 Ebsole, who has had Brittain on the back foot all game, runs past him again but shoots straight at Collins.
  • 3:40pm
    40 Any decent chance Barnsley have is through Morris. This time he picks up the ball and looks to play in Quina but his cross his intercepted and out for a throw.
  • 3:43pm
    43 Barnsley temporarily down to ten men as Quina received treatment.
  • 3:43pm
    44 Quina is back on and Derby have a corner.
  • 3:45pm
    45 Morrison finds himself unmarked at the edge of the box, but his effort was 25 yards over the bar.
  • 3:45pm
    One minute added on.
  • 3:46pm
    45+1 It could have been a good chance on the stroke of half time as Morris heads onto Quina, but his touch lets him dow and Quina collects.
  • 3:46pm
    HALF TIME: Derby go in at the break 1-0 up. The Reds have been incredibly poor.
  • 4:04pm
    Ravel Morrison doubles Derby's lead.
  • 4:04pm
    47 Seconds after kick off and Barnsley now have a mountain to climb.
  • 4:06pm
    49 Derby now in full control of the game. The Reds have struggled all match to get into it - looks highly likely the Rams will now leapfrog the Reds in the table.
  • 4:08pm
    52 Four at the back for the Barnsley isn't going too well. There's no width but they all seem to be outnumbered in the middle. Not a good day so far.
  • 4:09pm
    53 Andersen pulls down Plange - good chance for the Rams.
  • 4:09pm
    53 Ebiowei takes the free kick and it's high and wide.
  • 4:11pm
    55 Corner for the Reds as Gomes sees this shot deflected over the bar.
  • 4:12pm
    56 Derby continuing to control the game - Barnsley looking like they've never played together before.
  • 4:14pm
    58 Poor passing from the Barnsley team sees Ebiowei collect the ball on his full debut, and almost curve it past Collins. Almost 3-0.
  • 4:15pm
    59 Morris is fouled right on the edge of the area. Are kick 18-yards or so out.
  • 4:15pm
    60 Morris to take.
  • 4:16pm
    60 It's a good effort but his curling free-kick is tipped over by Allsop.
  • 4:16pm
    Matty Wolfe.
  • 4:16pm
    SUB ON
    Josh Benson.
  • 4:16pm
    60 It's the first change of the game for the Reds as Wolfe, already on a yellow card, comes off for Benson.
  • 4:18pm
    62 In what could have been a good chance for Barnsley, the pass is wayward and out for a throw-in.
  • 4:20pm
    64 Some magic from Quina sees Barnsley break but Vita's cross is poor.
  • 4:20pm
  • 4:20pm
    SUB ON
  • 4:23pm
    67 Barnsley still struggling to even touch the ball. It will take a miracle for Barnsley to get anything from this game.
  • 4:26pm
  • 4:26pm
    SUB ON
  • 4:27pm
    71 That sub sees Styles move inside and Oduor onto the right wing. It'll hopefully provide some more width for the Reds.
  • 4:30pm
    73 Lawrence whips in a free kick and Morrison tries a bicycle kick. He misses the ball by five metres.
  • 4:32pm
    75 Morris picks up the ball 30 yards out and shoots, but it's miles high and wide. The only chance for Barnsley all second half.
  • 4:33pm
    77 Just over ten minutes to go here. Neither side are having any chances and the ball is just being played in the middle.
  • 4:34pm
    78 Quina is hacked down outside the box. Free kick.
  • 4:34pm
  • 4:34pm
    SUB ON
  • 4:35pm
  • 4:35pm
    SUB ON
  • 4:35pm
    79 Bassi and Benson over the free kick - the former is supposedly a set piece specialist.
  • 4:35pm
    79 Bassi takes and it's narrowly wide. Would have been a great goal.
  • 4:38pm
    82 Another good opportunity from a free kick close from goal as Styles is hacked down.
  • 4:38pm
    82 Styles and Quina stand over it.
  • 4:39pm
    83 It comes to nothing in the end and the ball is back in the Barnsley half.
  • 4:39pm
  • 4:39pm
    SUB ON
  • 4:40pm
    84 A centre half is coming on with five minutes to go. Reds look to be playing five-at-the-back. Probably a change that should have happened after the first goal.
  • 4:41pm
    85 It actually looks like Helik has gone up front.
  • 4:41pm
    85 The ball is played into the Polish centre back in the box but his effort is straight into the gloves of Allsop.
  • 4:43pm
    87 Neat play from Lawrence almost plays in Plange but Andersen puts it out for a Derby corner.
  • 4:47pm
    Three minutes
  • 4:47pm
    91 The Reds have a few more minutes to spark a miraculous comeback. But in truth it looks like they'll be slipping back below Derby in the table.
  • 4:50pm
    Morris is booked.
  • 4:50pm
    FULL TIME: The Reds lose a must-win game 2-0 and drop below Derby in the table.
  • 4:51pm
    It was a poor display from start to finish and the Reds now creep closer to the drop and relegation to League One.