In footballing circles – and certainly in Championship ones – Barnsley were threatening to trend as rapidly on Twitter as publicity-savvy TV host Piers Morgan has been doing in the news section if their stunning sequence of seven successive league victories continued.
That their club record form at second-tier level did not extend into an eighth straight win will have been viewed with an initial pang of regret by Reds followers.
It will have quickly been replaced by a colossal amount of perspective, with Barnsley having not just travelled on a journey in recent times, but circumnavigated the globe in express fashion to move into the play-off places.
Their achievements are worthy of fulsome respect according to Valerien Ismael, who noted how Derby became the latest in a line of clubs to totally change their tactics to combat Barnsley’s direct pressing style.
The Reds head coach, with a sense of belligerence and desire for dues to be paid to Barnsley, is adamant that his side deserve credit and not vilification and took umbrage at those who are not doing that.
He said: “The opponents who play against us change their formation and way to play football and after (they) try to find some excuse to either say it is the pitch or Barnsley...
“Say after you wanted to play like this and respect Barnsley at pressing... That is the truth and not something disrespectful to us
“To play like that is a compliment for our guys to see a team like Derby County who went for the play-offs before this season come here and completely change their way to play football.”
Derby did their homework and nearly won. Ultimately, in games you cannot win, make sure you don’t lose, first and foremost.
Barnsley very nearly did lose and went close to going behind in a league game for the first time since January 19 when Graeme Shinnie’s low shot smacked against the inside of the post 10 minutes from time, with Sheffield-born Lee Gregory spurning an excellent chance in front of goal when his touch deserted him seven minutes earlier.
The Reds – for whom weekend hero Daryl Dike again led the fight – went closest early in the second half when Conor Chaplin shot straight at Kelle Roos from close range, before banging his hand on the ground in frustration. In a game of few chances, this was also big.
As a technical exercise, the Rams’ decision to go ‘like-for-like’ and replicate the hosts’ 3-4-3 formation, dropping into five at the back when out of possession and also play a high line and squeeze the game worked successfully.
Anything resembling free-flowing football was at a premium and this was a night for scrapping and winning ‘duels’ as Ismael likes to call it and securing second balls.
For an Evertonian in Wayne Rooney, it was not exactly ‘School of Science’ stuff, but needs must at the business end when results and not performances are king.
From goal kicks, the middle ground was congested and it was like a mini war zone in the sporting sense and it was a case of who blinks first.
A first-time cross-shot from Callum Brittain fizzed off target for the Reds, while Cauley Woodrow connected cleanly with a volley, but the aim was wayward. There was not a great deal else. Dike, up against a game opponent in Teden Mengi, had a couple of half-chances in the air, but it was nothing whatsoever to trouble Roos, while Brad Collins was not extended at the other end in the first half, aside from racing out on a few occasions to clear his lines.
With options on the bench and his predilection to rotate, the smart money was on Ismael making quick-fire changes early in the second half.
He did not disappoint in that regard, although one player to make way in Chaplin should have come off with a goal to his name from Alex Mowatt’s cross.
To be fair, the changes did not ruffle Derby, who saw a half-shout for a penalty correctly turned down after Kamil Jozwiak went down too easily under pressure from Toby Sibbick.
It took 55 minutes for the Rams to produce their first effort on goal, a tame shot from Shinnie, with the chance they craved arriving when Colin Kazim Richards found Gregory in space, only for Collins to make a key block.
Rooney and co were ready to celebrate when Shinnie’s late shot looked goalbound, but Barnsley got their reprieve. A defeat would have been cruel and a draw was right.
Barnsley: Collins; Sibbick, Helik, Andersen; Brittain, Palmer, Mowatt, Styles (J Williams 57); Chaplin (Morris 57), Woodrow (Adeboyejo 57), Dike. Substitutes unused: Walton, Kane, Oduor, Sollbauer, Moon.
Derby County: Roos; Edmndson, Mengi, Clarke, Wisdom, Knight, Shinnie, Forsyth; Kazim-Richards, Gregory (Waghorn 85), Jozwiak (Sibley 85). Substitutes unused: Idem, Bird, Roberts, Buchanan, Wilson, McDonald, Watson.
Referee: K Stroud (Hants).
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