Frustrated Barnsley boss Danny Wilson couldn’t hide his disappointment after the Reds slipped to a second successive defeat over the Christmas period.
Tomasz Cywka’s stunning 62nd minute strike was the rare highlight on an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the misfiring hosts.
Two goals from Chris Martin did the damage, one in ether half, as Wilson’s side struggled to get to grip’s with the rampant Rams.
Steve McLaren’s visitors dominated as they extended their impressive unbeaten run to nine matches.
And that’s eight wins from their last nine league outings as well since the former England boss took charge.
Defeat for the Reds left them rooted to the foot of the Championship and in desperate need of reinforcements – and ideas .
“They [Derby] caused us too many problems,” reflected Wilson. “They hurt us.
“Their wide men hurt us, their midfield players hurt us and Chris Martin was linking very well.
“We conceded soft goals from our perspective, but at least we put a shift in during the second period of the game.
“But again it’s too late against a side who have quality like that.
“You’ll find it very difficult to get back into a game when you give them a 2-0 goal lead.
“We need to freshen things in January. We need a lot of work doing, there’s no doubt about it.
“I’m bored with saying ‘we should have got something out of the game.’
“We’ve got to do something about it.”
Wilson made three changes to his side which lost 1-0 at home to Bolton Wanderers on Boxing Day.
But the changes to freshen the team didn’t really work with the Reds toothless in the first half.
Midfielder Jacob Mellis, winger Kelvin Etuhu and playmaker Paddy McCourt were all recalled to the starting line-up having missed out on starts against the Trotters.
And that meant midfielders David Perkins and Bobby Hassell, as well as striker Jason Scotland were relegated to the substitutes’ bench.
Leading scorer Chris O’Grady was employed as a lone striker, but he got hardly any service up top.
As a result the Reds were forced to soak up a barrage of pressure against a side 20 places above them in the table. And it was hardly a surprise when the rampant Rams took a deserved lead after only eight minutes.
It was a soft goal as well. Right winger Jonny Russell crossed into the box and the Reds failed to clear their lines. Martin didn’t waste the opportunity, although keeper Steele was unlucky as the striker’s left-foot shot took a deflection off him and looped into the net.
Not the start the Reds wanted chasing only their home win of what has so far been a miserable season.
To add insult to injury Etuhu had glanced a header wide from a Stephen Dawson cross two minutes earlier.
The hosts could have been two goals behind less than a minute later when left-back Kennedy lost Andre Wisdom and the right-back forcedSteele to save at his near post.
Russell tried his luck with a left-foot strike four minutes after that chance, but his strike flew wide of the right upright much to the relief of Steele.
Jim O’Brien worked himself some space on the edge of Derby’s box, but he dragged his right-foot shot wide of the left post.
Dubliner Dawson had a left-foot shot blocked inside the box as the Reds showed signs of leveling, before Crystal Palace loan centre-back Peter Ramage headed straight at Rams’ keeper Le Grant from an O’Brien corner.
Dawson also rifled wide of the left post from long-range, but Grant was never troubled.
O’Grady had a shot deflected over the bar as the Reds kept battling, before skipper Martin Cranie headed wide when he should have at least hit the target from Kennedy’s whipped in ball from the left.
Ramage was then called to make a last-ditch tackle on Russell after he had beaten Kennedy and raced in the to Reds’ box.
Derby should have been 2-0 up at the break though but for a bad miss from their leading scorer Craig Bryson.
The midfielder was a favourite to score after Russell had skinned Kennedy for pace again. But with only Steele to beat he shot straight at the keeper who did well to save with his legs.
But the second goal came just four minutes after the restart when Kennedy was caught cold again and Wisdom nearly ran the length of the field, picked out Martin at the back post. Unmarked he bagged his second goal.
Wilson had seen enough and just after the hour mark introduced Cywka as a substitute and he made an almost immediate impact.
The former Derby player rode two challenges and picked out the bottom left corner with a stunning strike.
It gave the Reds a glimmer of hope they could salvage from the match.
Out of respect to his former club Cywka didn’t celebrate his goal, but his arrival signaled a swing in momentum.
He tried his luck again from distance, but his second long-range shot flew well wide of the target.
Fellow substitute Marcus Pedersen had a right-foot shot blocked on the edge of the box as the Reds pushed for an equaliser.
O’Brien rifled straight at Grant after a lay-off from Cywka not long after with the Pole making a nuisance of himself.
At the other end, with the game stretched and Wilson’s side batting for a second goal, substitute Jamie Ward went close to putting the contest beyond reach.
The former Sheffield United hitman found himself in space just outside the home side’s area, but his right-foot shot was wide of Steele’s left post.
O’Grady had a glorious chance to grab a share of the spoils with two minutes remaining, but he blasted horribly over.
Unmarked on the penalty spot, O’Grady only had to hit the target from
Scott Wiseman’s cross into the box, but the former Sheffield Wednesday marksman blazed over.
It was agony for the Reds who could have snatched a point from a contest they spent a long time trying to get into.
And so that’s one point from a possible nine under Wilson with the club still rooted to the foot of the Championship table.