Barnsley FC 2 Derby County 1: Adam Phillips-inspired Reds turn up heat on Rams - and increase the intrigue at the top

NOT as emphatic as their previous Oakwell victory over Derby County almost exactly a year to the day, but still pretty special and no less important.

On February 25, 2024, Barnsley slammed four past the Rams in a promotion statement. Here, they had to settle for a modest 2-1 win as opposed to 4-1, but there was nothing modest about either goal, which were moments of class from Adam Phillips.

The midfielder, who netted in the success over Derby 12 months ago, was at it again.

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He cancelled out Sonny Bradley’s first-half volley with a sumptuous volley and there was an encore with an exquisitely timed header.

Barnsley's Adam Phillips scores his second vital goal against Derby County. Picture: Tony Johnson.Barnsley's Adam Phillips scores his second vital goal against Derby County. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Barnsley's Adam Phillips scores his second vital goal against Derby County. Picture: Tony Johnson.

At this time of the season, goalscoring midfielders are worth their weight in gold as so Phillips proved. He has scored four goals in his last two outings at Oakwell – a wonderful habit to have in late February.

The game was finely-poised at the interval, although Barnsley were entitled to be the happier, given the way they ended the half in the final 15 minutes and their response after going behind.

After looking ropey from a defensive perspective, the Reds dusted themselves down and started to hand Derby something to think about at the other end.

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It yielded a marvellous equaliser from Phillips, with the ball dropping perfectly for him after Eiran Cashin headed out Cadden’s cross from the left.

The midfielder controlled the ball on his chest and the ball was the perfect height to have a crack and he duly did with his sweet right-footed volley flying and giving Joe Wildsmith no chance on 33 minutes.

Derby’s biggest threat was from set-plays and Bradley was the beneficiary to put the Rams ahead 15 minutes earlier.

A corner from the right from ex-Reds captain Conor Hourihane, given stick from the Pontefract Road End after his recall to the Rams side saw Bradley arrive in the box from the left.

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He lost Phillips and his downward header flew into the net, despite the best efforts of Cadden on the line, with keeper Liam Roberts having also been unsighted due to the presence of Edou Adams.

Moments before, Barnsley - whose three-man central defence of full debutant Donovan Pines, Mael de Gevigney and Josh Earl looked susceptible at times in their first outing together - did not heed a warning.

Another Hourihane flag-kick found the unmarked Bradley. His header was flicked on by Cashin. On this occasion, Cadden managed to clear off the line.

As the half progressed, Derby looked less certain at the back and there was certainly hope going forward on the restart for the hosts in this particular six-pointer.

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The intent on the restart came from Barnsley, with the Rams - who lacked rhythm in midfield and looked like a side without a recognised centre-forward on the bench - being sloppy and subdued by comparison.

The trick for the hosts was to find that requisite moment of quality and incision.

Good chances were at a premium, with both Neill Collins and Paul Warne soon playing a hand by making some offensive substitutions.

Sam Cosgrove got the call for Barnsley, while new signing Dwight Gayle was handed a debut from the bench, with Tom Barkhuizen also arriving.

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A half-chance at the start of the half had seen Cadden shoot at Joe Wildsmith, wearing a cap to combat the sun, while Nathaniel Mendez-Laing saw his well-struck volley deflected for a corner. But it was not much to write home about, in truth.

Barnsley - and more specifically Phillips - then took matters into his own hands midway through the half, netting with an excellent looping header following Cadden’s outswinging corner from the right.

Derby’s response wasn’t too convincing, with one semi-opportunity seeing Max Bird fire wide. Gayle could not get into the game either.

Some late corners constituted pressure of sorts. The disclosure that there was a minimum of nine added minutes following a couple of stoppages for head injuries was also Derby’s friend in the circumstances.

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When the chance came, it was for Gayle. It was wide and it was also offside. Mendez-Laing saw an effort deflected wide. On scarf day, Barnsley fans were waving theirs.

Barnsley: Roberts; De Gevigney, Pines, Earl; Williams, Phillips (Cotter 87), Connell, Kane, Cadden (O’Keeffe; McAtee (Cosgrove 57), Cole (Grant 90+5). Unused substitutes: Killip, Marsh, McCart.

Derby County: Wildsmith; Nelson, Bradley, Cashin; Wilson; Hourihane (Barkhuizen 61), Adams (Smith 89), Elder (Nyambe 76); Bird, Sibley (Gayle 61); Mendez-Laing. Unused substitutes: Loach, Thompson, Fornah.

Referee: A Kitchen (Durham).

Attendance: 18,332 (4,995 Derby fans).