The first floodlit league match of the season at Pride Park, saw Derby and Barnsley draw 1-1, in what was a fabulous match, and left the home fans feeling positive about their team’s chances over the season’s length.
The Rams, started the game the brightest of the two, and began the onslaught on goal, on a night in which they created a whopping 26 shots. Jeff Hendrick, with the first notable strike from 25 yards out, testing out visiting goalkeeper Luke Steele, who went on to have a stunner in goals. From then on, Derby looked the more dangerous side, with Barnsley having shorter attacking spurts, whilst witholding the likes of Ben Davies and Jamie Ward on the wings. The Tykes had the odd free-kick and corner every now and then, but the excitement was at Southern end of the ground infront of which Derby where playing some scintillating one-touch football, the likes of which Pride Park have never seen. Unfortunately, the defensive errors that have long plagued the Rams crept in once again.
Barnsley’s Jacob Butterfield opened the scoring in the 35th minute with a volley from just inside the six-yard box. It was a poor goal to concede defensively from the Derby point of view, as Frankie Fielding and sub Russel Anderson, on for the injured Gareth Roberts at left-back, showed a lack of communication. This prompted Ricardo Vaz Te to knock down a cross into the box, for Butterfield to simply stroke home. It was against the majority of the play, but at the same time the Tykes deserved the goal for their defensive solidarity.
The remaining ten minutes of the first half saw Derby offer little attacking threat, with Theo Robinson and Hendrick offering comfortable saves for Steele. It was clear that County needed the half-time whistle to blow, so that they could re-organise for a big second-half push to find the goals they needed to send them to the top of the table, something noone at the club would’ve envisoned a few months ago.
A trademark of this refreshed Derby side is the quick, fast starts they make to halves. They didn’t disappoint under the floodlights either, as they bombarded the Barnsley goal with attack after attack. In a period of 10 mintues or so, Ben Davies must’ve taken 6 or 7 corners, as the only thing stopping the Rams from netting was keeper Steele and the post. Robinson missed a couple of big chances, and Jamie Ward couldn’t seem to get any power into his shots. However, the two ex-loanees have really improved as players after a disappointing starts to their careers at Pride Park, evolving as the team itself have, and becoming more than bit-part players.
Alas, the winner eluded both teams, but the football from both teams, Derby in particular, was excellent throughout, with the ball played on the floor, a really good advertisement for Championship football. It also marks a change for Derby as a team. Normally, the Pride Park crowd wouldn’t allow the side to put together moves containing 10 or more passes, instead becoming impatient and wanted instead success. However, I noted a real change in the atmosephere last night, as supporters, instead of moaning and groaning, were encouraging changes of play from right to left, eager to see magnificent passes from the likes of Brayford and Hendrick. I came out last night thinking it was the best football I’d ever seen Derby play, creating almost 30 chances, and playing some fine football along the way. Sure they couldn’t find that elusive winner, but that’s something they can work on, and with this group of players, who actually know how to play together as a team, a marked improvement on past Rams sides, I believe that the play-offs are certainly attainable. This is a side without the likes of the injured Shaun Barker, Nathan Tyson and Paul Green, all top-class performers at Championship level. One thing is for sure: these are bright times at Pride Park.
Derby County: Fielding, Brayford, Roberts (Anderson 16), Shackell, O’Brien, Bryson, B Davies, Hendrick, S Davies, Ward, Robinson (Cywka 90) Subs not used: Legzdins, Croft, Maguire.
Barnsley: Steele, Hassell, McEveley (Wiseman 38), Foster, McNulty, O’Brien, Perkins (Digby 33), Drinkwater, Vaz Te (Rose 77), Gray Subs not used: Preece, Clark
Ref: Miller Attendance: 23,454