Barnsley FC: From the sublime to the ridiculous

THE memory is still vivid. Adam Hammill walked off disconsolately on his own at Pride Park and said a heartfelt farewell to Barnsley supporters.

Barnsley's Carlton Morris and Derby County's Lee Buchanan battle for the ball. Picture: PA.
Barnsley's Carlton Morris and Derby County's Lee Buchanan battle for the ball. Picture: PA.

That was on the final day of the 2017-18 season in the aftermath of a grim episode in Derbyshire when Reds followers were seriously short-changed and the pain was acute following a humiliating 4-1 defeat.

Barnsley had been relegated, deservedly so. Jose Morais was handed his cards in its immediate aftermath and the future looked bleak and uncertain.

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The one good thing from Saturday was that Barnsley’s present-day Championship fate was not signed, sealed and delivered after their players again trudged off the pitch with a fair bit to ponder again following this similarly painful visit to this part of the East Midlands where they contrived to deliver another no-show.

Barnsley's Clarke Oduor (left) and Derby County's Jason Knight battle for the ball. Picture: PA.

They live to fight another day this time around, at least. Although they will need to fight a damn sight harder.

Relegation rivals Reading lost and that was another morsel of comfort following a desperate and derelict afternoon.

The fight and desperation came from Derby in a fixture which looked a must-win for them. If Steve Bloomer was watching, he’d have had a smile of contentment.

It was a big game for both, but a bigger one for Derby and it showed. Barnsley were off it from the start and sat off and admired and encouraged the hosts and never got to grips with one of the most important 90 minutes in their campaign. Arugably, the most important.

After hitting the heights in the first half seven days earlier against Middlesbrough, this was the polar opposite.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. The game looked too much for some.

Ravel Morrison was once hailed as the best young player who Sir Alex Ferguson had ever seen and he’s seen a few.

Glimpses of his talent have been exceedingly intermittent, but he was in the mood for once on Saturday en route to two priceless goals and Barnsley afforded him a welcoming committee.

Aside from perhaps Carlton Morris, no Barnsley player who left the pitch could say they turned up. Derby had the answers from Morrison to Krystian Bielik to Curtis Davies and Festy Ebosele to Max Bird as they subjugated tepid visitors.

There was anger in the dressing room, according to Michal Helik and maybe this was something.

Even if there was no fight where it mattered on the pitch.

Helik commented: “I am really disappointed and angry.

“We are all angry for that performance. You need to be angry after that.

“I think that is good as it will give us the power to perform better and we also play Stoke at home (tomorrow) and at home, we are more dangerous.

“So I feel confident before this game.

“Derby performed really well. They scored a first goal and then a second in really good time for them at the beginning of the second half. It was not good enough from us.”

On a day when the first goal was always likely to possess significance, it came, quite gloriously and early, from Derby.

Some exquisite one-touch football saw Morrison brazenly dummy a pass and then latch onto Luke Plange’s throughball before lifting the ball effortlessly over Brad Collins.

It was pure intrinsic skill and not the sort of thing you can teach from a manual.

Plange had earlier fired a big opportunity off target after benefitting from a skewed clearance from Callum Brittain.

In for the injured Jordan Williams – out for the rest of the season after knee surgery – Brittain toiled and an error helped Derby secure three very valuable points soon after on the resumption.

Morrison’s pass found Tom Lawrence, with the Rams talisman, so badly missed in his recent three-match ban, smashing a drive against the woodwork after Brittain let the throughball inexplicably dissect him.

Morrison, who had also seen a drive from distance clip the bar in the first period, buried the loose ball and that was pretty much that.

Barnsley briefly pepped up after going two goals down and that was revealing in itself.

It’s much easier when you are trailing 2-0 and have nothing to lose.

Much harder when the game is in the melting point at 0-0.

Aside from Morris, who went close with a second-half free-kick and tested Ryan Allsop at his near post in the first period after getting the better of Eiran Cashin, Barnsley brought nothing to the table in terms of aggression, competitiveness and authority.

In a huge game, it was much, much too easy for those in Derby white, who held their nerve much like their recent home fixture with another struggler in Peterborough United. They had to win and they did.

After coming to the party last weekend, Amine Bassi and Domingos Quina stayed at home. Others too for Barnsley.

The good thing is that they have played 34 games this season and not 44.

The joyous Derby fans raucously chanted ‘We’re Derby County, we fight till the end’ with defiance after the final whistle.

A bit of fight on Tuesday night against Stoke City would be welcome from a Barnsley perspective. They owe it to those who travelled to the East Midlands.