Barnsley FC have been here before in the run-in - and it showed on Saturday: final word on mature victory over League One promotion rivals Derby County

WELCOME to Barnsley, the place of possibilities.

The aforesaid message is displayed on signs dotted around the outskirts of town for the benefit of drivers.

Head towards the centre of town to Oakwell and it is certainly ‘the place of possibilities.’

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barnsley find themselves at the heart of a battle for automatic promotion which has compressed as a result of Saturday’s events, principally at their own home against Derby and at Blackpool.

Barnsley's two-goal midfielder Adam Phillips celebrates his stunning first-half leveller against Derby County. Picture: Tony Johnson.Barnsley's two-goal midfielder Adam Phillips celebrates his stunning first-half leveller against Derby County. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Barnsley's two-goal midfielder Adam Phillips celebrates his stunning first-half leveller against Derby County. Picture: Tony Johnson.

While one of the top-two candidates in Bolton took a seaside pounding, the Reds held their nerve in seasoned fashion versus a Derby side providing more questions than answers at the minute.

Their hold on second spot looks precarious and fourth-placed Barnsley - three points behind with a game in hand - are very much interested.

There was initial elation at the end of this Adam Phillips-inspired win. What followed came the comforting realisation that Barnsley’s players have been here before and appear to know what they are doing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They handled the big-game atmosphere at Oakwell and a high-stakes meeting with a rival in sound fashion.

Their performance was not as stellar as home wins against Plymouth, Sheffield Wednesday and ironically Derby - who visited Barnsley almost exactly a year to day since their previous visit - in the run-in of last season, but it had substance.

At this time of year, the good and successful sides find different ways to win and contributions across the board.

It was a day when League One’s joint top-scorer Devante Cole and his adept accomplice in John McAtee did not come to the party. It was a time for others to put their hand up.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Phillips - with a penchant for goals again - did so on two telling occasions.

His volleyed equaliser was a thing of beauty and unstoppable and his header to win it midway through the second half was instinctive and similarly deadly.

While the talk afterwards was of Phillips - with the likes of Luca Connell, Jordan Williams and Cadden also displaying the big-game mentality nurtured in the last run home - the focus at the Derby end surrounded what they haven’t got.

Which is plenty in fairness, at the minute. How they missed top-scorer James Collins, who scored twice in a dominant win in the reverse fixture, in particular.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They are having to make do and mend at the moment and it showed. Barnsley had the answers.

And once those in red got their noses in front, they managed the game sensibly and properly.

Derby pushed in their quest to find an equaliser with the arrival of Dwight Gayle energising the hordes from the East Midlands.

The corner count rose and there were nine minutes of stoppage-time. Barnsley were not to be moved.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

From a defensive perspective, the events also carried significance.

Starting together in a senior game for the third time, the three-man central defence of Donovan Pines, making his first start, Mael de Gevigney and Josh Earl, had a wobbly start.

Pines in particular, with De Gevigney sparing his blushes early in to block ex-Reds captain Conor Hourihane following an initial error from the American.

Gradually Pines settled. But not before Derby drew first blood.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barnsley got a warning when Sonny Bradley won the air miles to Hourihane’s corner. Eiran Cashin nodded towards goal, but Cadden cleared off the line.

From the resultant flag-kick, Bradley changed his run and his downward header flew into the net.

The visitors’ set-piece threat was discernible. What was also impressive was the way Barnsley’s backline eventually worked things out for themselves.

De Gevigney started to relish the battle, Pines won a few headers and Earl is someone who simply looks like he has played at Oakwell for years already.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And then there was Phillips. He chested the ball down just outside of the 18-yard box following Cashin's header clear and hit the sweet spot.

His encore from Cadden's inswinger wasn't half bad either. Finding space in a crowded area and the ice to finish.

Barnsley: Roberts; De Gevigney, Pines, Earl; Williams, Phillips (Cotter 87), Connell, Kane, Cadden (O’Keeffe 90+6); 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).