Analysis of Barnsley's 2-1 home win over promotion rivals Derby County. The visitors took the lead but Adam Phillips scored a brace.


Barnsley are well in the fight for automatic promotion after this tight but deserved win over the second-placed Rams.

The Reds cut the gap to the top two to three points, with a game in hand, and are ten off leaders Portsmouth who have played two more games.

Results elsewhere also went Barnsley’s way with third-placed Bolton - who visit Oakwell next week - being thrashed at Blackpool, and Portsmouth held at Charlton.

Barnsley are unbeaten in five while, going further back, they have only lost two of the last 23 games - half a season of consistently good form. They have scored in 20 games in a row in all competitions.

This was not as much of a canter as some of the big wins the Reds chalked up this time last year against promotion rivals but it had a similar feel to those huge games, off the pitch as well, while there is less of a gap to make up this time to the top two.

When Derby took the lead, the problems against promotion rivals, the patchy home form and the concession of early goals all looked to rear their ugly heads.

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But, during a display of guts, organisation and some moments of genius, they answered questions.

After losing their first five meetings with the top eight, their next five have brought three wins as well as draws at Peterborough and Bolton where they played well and could have won. This was the first victory against any of the current top three.

They now have the sixth best home record in the division with 30 points from 17 games. The attendance of 18,322 was the best of the season by almost 5,000 - eclipsing the opening day thrashing of Port Vale. That was boosted by about 5,000 away fans but there were also more home supporters than usual, many responding to the club’s request to wave red and white scarves.

The Reds were hoping to build on the improved atmosphere in the previous home game against Leyton Orient, and certainly did so as the away end started noisily but slowly quietened.

Conceding first is still an issue but the Reds have come from behind to win five games this season, all in the last 15 games. Since they did so at Reading in December - a first comeback win in more than two years - they have beaten visitors Stevenage, Carlisle, Leyton Orient and now Derby all 2-1 and all after conceding in the first 18 minutes.

They have 19 points from losing positions this season - the second most in the division after Portsmouth - compared to just three last season. That is testament to their belief and character.


Derby had lost two in 19, conceded just three goals in the last seven and had the best defensive record in the division.

The Rams also boasted the best away record in League One and the most away goals in the division with 30.

They are thought to have one of the biggest budgets while their 18-man squad had made more than 2,000 Championship appearances between them, compared to less than 250 for Barnsley.

Unlike last season’s fixture - a 4-1 Reds win one day shy of a year earlier - there was little in the game but Barnsley seemed to have the slight edge, especially after the break, in terms of attacking intent, energy and a desire to win. They also had the match-winning quality of Adam Phillips.

Derby only really threatened from set pieces. Ex-Red Conor Hourihane took regular corners - and was booed by some of the home fans - while goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith, who also played for Barnsley, launched free-kicks from inside his half into the box, packed with his team-mates, which had led to two goals in the reverse fixture.

But, after conceding from a corner, the Reds defended set pieces much better and also gained more control which meant they did not concede them as often.

Derby had no real chances after scoring and only really applied pressure in the nine minutes of stoppage time, a far cry from their 3-0 victory at home in November which was a low point for the Reds.

Derby played a 3-4-2-1 formation with natural winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing up front who was well-contained by the home defence, as was debutant Dwight Gayle when he came off the bench.

Rams boss Paul Warne has lost five out of six league meetings with Reds including all three visits to Oakwell.


The last three Saturdays have been The Adam Phillips show.

A week after setting up both goals at Fleetwood, he emulated his brace in the previous home game against Leyton Orient.

He became the first Red to score twice or more in consecutive home league games since Mike Sheron against Sheffield Wednesday and Walsall in 2001.

Midfielder Phillips now has six goals this season - having not scored before December - and five assists, so looks more than capable of reaching double figures for both.

He is also a leader on the pitch and does plenty of defensive work as well as being a superb attacking midfielder who is now on top form.

The first was a goal of the season contender as he chested down outside the box and sent a superb 22-yard shot just inside the left post. The move started with a fine run out of defence by Josh Earl then Devante Cole found Nicky Cadden whose cross was headed out. Phillips also scored from outside the box in last season’s fixture but this was even better.

The impressive Cadden assisted the second goal as his right-wing corner was headed in by Phillips at the near post - his third headed goal of the campaign. It was a fine set piece goal against a team who had looked to win through set pieces.

Alongside Phillips, Herbie Kane had a solid if unspectacular game while Luca Connell, although still not quite at his best on the ball, put in a top shift off the ball and organised well.


Before Phillips became the goal-scoring hero, he was unable to track Sonny Bradley who opened the scoring with a header in the 18th minute.

Phillips was left marking two players at the back post from a right-wing corner as Bradley made a clever run behind him before circling back to meet the cross and beat Devante Cole in the air. The Reds will be disappointed with the marking from the set piece and that, for the fifth time in eight games, they fell behind inside 20 minutes.

They have the worst record in the division for conceding early goals but are mostly getting away with it due to these superb comebacks.

Neill Collins said that it was not like some of the previous early goals which had been due to clear individual errors during a generally sluggish start. This time Barnsley actually began quite well but Derby scored from an attacking set piece which is their strength.

For the third game in a row, an ex-Red played a key role in putting Barnsley behind at Oakwell. After Jack Aitchison scored for Exeter and George Moncur assisted for Orient, Hourihane’s corner set up Bradley.


Donovan Pines was given his full debut, in place of the benched Jamie McCart, after impressing off the bench at Fleetwood last week.

It was a big game in which to be making a first start in English football - five months since his last start in the MLS - but it was a very positive debut overall in the middle of the back three.

At times he looked unsure of what to do on the ball and wasted possession, but he made the most clearances and was on the end of nearly all Derby’s late crosses into the box as he dominated aerially.

Mael de Gevigney and Earl both had fine games as the wide centre-backs and the back three looked a solid unit despite never playing together before.

De Gevigney and Earl teamed up well with wing-backs Jordan Williams and Cadden who both had good games.

This now looks like Neill Collins’ first choice 11 for the run-in, although he has flexibility for different opponents such as returning Williams to the back three against small and pacy attacks or picking Sam Cosgrove if they need to go aerial.

Cosgrove scored last week but Barnsley clearly felt McAtee was better-suited to the way they wanted to press Derby. McAtee had a quiet game as his goalless run stretched to 11 matches. Cosgrove came on and won six headers.