Career milestone passes by for Barnsley ace Jason as 26,000 fans endure a dire encounter at Pride Park
WHAT a huge disappointment this game was for more than 26,000 fans that packed inside Derby’s impressive Pride Park stadium on Saturday.
The outcome maybe could have been anticipated given both sides’ very questionable form going into the game, but overall there were very few clear-cut chances with Barnsley going closest in the second half when Paul McShane headed against the post. Reds boss Mark Robins said: “We’ve got a point away from home so we have to be positive about that.
“It was important that we didn’t lose too, though.
“Derby seemed happy to spoil it, they’re fighting for their lives so they did make it difficult for us.
“It wasn’t a great spectacle out there though.”
Set to face a Rams side who had lost their last five games at home, Robins opted to make four changes to the starting line-up that began the disappointing 2-0 home reverse at the hands of Norwich seven days earlier.
Kieran Trippier dropped in at right-back to cover for calf injury Bobby Hassell, but across the back four Jay McEveley was in at left-back for his first game since October following a knee injury.
Jason Shackell – making his 200th league appearance - took his place in the heart of the defence, while in the middle, Nathan Doyle returned, as did Jacob Mellis, following respective calf and hamstring injuries.
Up front Marlon Harewood came in for his first Reds start, partnering Garry O’Connor, while dropping out were Hassell, Matt Hill, Jacob Butterfield and Goran Lovre.
Hill and Lovre didn’t even make the subs’ bench.
The Reds were without a win in five going into this one, but they started brightly and just three minutes had passed when O’Connor crashed in a shot which Frank Fielding beat away superbly.
There was precious little to enthuse over for the remainder of the opening period, though, with Harewood glancing a header narrowly wide and the Rams responding with Theo Robinson volleying wide with Luke Steele beaten.
There was a blistering start to the second period, with both sides going mighty close inside the opening couple of minutes.
With barely 20 seconds gone Jamie Ward guided an angled shot across the face of goal and wide from just eight yards, while at the other end the woodwork was to come to the hosts’ rescue.
Only a minute after Ward’s howler, McShane rose brilliantly to meet Trippier’s corner, but his powerful header struck the base of the post.
The dangerous Tomasz Cywka hammered in a shot from 20 yards that fizzed narrowly wide, then Derby’s media star, Robbie Savage, expertly played in Shaun Barker, only for the defender to miss the target from 15 yards.
After Rams midfielder Paul Green volleyed spectacularly just wide with 20 minutes remaining, the Reds took control and bossed the remainder of the game.
In the 76th minute Trippier floated in another peach of a free-kick that Shackell nodded a whisker wide.
The visitors were probing and soon after O’Connor latched onto a smart pass from sub Butterfield before seeing a shot deflected just past the post for a corner which unfortunately came to nothing.
Possibly the Reds’ best chance of the whole game came with just four minutes to go – and it was McShane who was in the thick of the action again.
The gutsy centre-back rose well again to meet Tripper’s in-swinging corner, but Barker was on hand to desperately hack the ball off the line.
That was pretty much it – but such is the continued pressure on Derby boss Nigel Clough he didn’t emerge for the post-match media briefing.
His assistant, Johnny Metgod, said: “To get a point was absolutely vital for us.
“It was so important that we didn’t lose. We created a number of good chances, but it was also very important for us not to concede.
“It’s been a difficult situation for us, but we’ve picked up four points from our last three games now and if we keep up that return between now and the end of the season it should see us okay.
“It gives us something to build on, it’s a very small step in the right direction, but we’ve got to keep putting in these battling performances.”
Derby are fighting for their lives and they made it difficult for us, but we didn’t really move the ball around quickly enough.
We got ourselves into some good positions and there was plenty of intelligent play and hard work, but I suppose overall it was a poor game.
It just passed us by in the end and that’s disappointing, I suppose.