FORMER Doncaster Rovers defender James O’Connor and substitute Nathan Tyson registered as Barnsley slipped to within one place of the Championship relegation zone.
A third successive defeat for the Reds was hard to swallow, especially because Tyson’s strike only sealed the deal at the death for the hosts.
Up until then the Reds had faired well, but again a lack of a killer-instinct cost them dear. O’Connor’s 69th minute close range strike was his first-ever Derby goal and amazingly his first goal for 70 appearances. The ex-Rovers man last scored in October 2010.
And to rub salt into the wound the Reds were caught on the counter-attack and Tyson lashed in a second with a superb 22-yard strike to make sure of the points.
Hill made four changes to his side which were edged 1-0 at Hull City on Saturday. Injured midfielder David Perkins was replaced by former Chelsea youngster Jacob Mellis in the Reds’ starting 11, while young right-back John Stones – whose uncharacteristic mistake led to the Tigers’ win – was also dropped.
Tom Kennedy was brought back in place of Stones, with Stephen Foster and winger Matty Done also both missing out. Stones didn’t even make it on to the substitute’s bench with Jimmy McNulty starting his first game of the season in the centre of defence having recovered from a prolonged hamstring injury.
And there was also a chance for the versatile Cranie to prove his worth having returned from a calf injury.
But early on the Reds were on the back foot and in the ninth minute O’Connor came close to giving the Rams the lead. He rifled over from close range when he should have done better, before the Reds broke forward and nearly scored themselves six minutes later. Striker Chris Dagnall worked himself a yard of space, but his stinging shot flew wide of the left upright.
Mellis collected a Stephen Dawson pass with the Reds growing in confidence, but the midfielder cracked his ambitious volley well over.
Polish winger Tomasz Cywka cut in from the left touchline and forced a smart save from Rams’ keeper Adam Legzdins at his near post.
At the other end, Luke Steele spared the Reds’ blushes with a fine double save just before half-time. He thwarted Will Hughes with an excellent block in the 42nd minute, before only 20 seconds later denying Jeff Hendrick.
On the hour, Steele showed his quality with an excellent save from Paul Coutt’s sweet strike. Midfielder John Brayford drilled into the side netting moments later and then the deadlock was broken when the Reds’ conceded a needless free-kick and the Rams scored from it.
Hughes’ pinpoint cross to the far post was headed against the base of an upright by Keogh and O’Connor poked home the rebound.
Substitute Tyson had a shot blocked by McNulty as the Rams pressed for a second, before Done wasted a glorious chance at the death when he blasted over.
That miss proved costly as Tyson beat Steele with a wonderful strike to leave the Reds with plenty of work to do to pull themselves up the table.
DERBY (4-4-2): Legzdins 6, Brayford 7, Keogh 7, O’Connor 7, Roberts 6, Coutts 6 (Freeman 90), Bryson 7, Hendrick 7, Hughes 8, Robinson 5 (Jacobs 75), Sammon 5 (Tyson 84). Subs: Deeney, Buxton, O’Brien, Davies.
BARNSLEY (4-1-4-1): Steele 7, Kennedy 6, Wiseman 7, McNulty 6, Golbourne 6, Cranie 6, Etuhu 6 (O’Brien 78), Dawson 6, Mellis 6 (Harewood 78), Cywka 7 (Done 71), Dagnall 6. Subs: Alnwick, Hassell, Foster, Silva.
Booked: Cywka, Mellis, Kennedy, Cranie.
Referee: David Coote (Nottingham)