When 4-4-2 F***ed up: Barnsley 3 Derby County 2

Some days, your luck’s out.  Some days, you don’t get what you deserve.  On other days – and these have been in mercifully short supply this season – you play cretinously badly and get whupped.  For 45 minutes at Oakwell, Derby were incomprehensively awful and got the  hammering they deserved.

Although the bizarre circumstances of the evening contributed to our downfall, with Paul Green left out just in case somebody chose to bid for him on transfer deadline day, Nigel Clough takes a share of the blame.  Unless James Bailey was injured, it was probably asking too much to change two of the midfield four, whilst also giving a teenager his debut up front in a 4-4-2.  Green was a big miss, as was Bailey and the Rams were totally swamped.  The swinging stable door was eventually bolted shut, but by that time, the horses were gambolling free in the hills, over yonder.

Barnsley played a midfield three of Perkins, Tonge and Korey Smith, who were able to monopolise possession, with Derby restricted to a series of embarrassingly over-pitched ‘channel balls’.  We were outnumbered, but also sluggish, second to everything and seemingly disorganised – a shadow of the side who have played with confidence, determination and discipline over the past couple of months.

Had we matched Barnsley’s midfield three from the start, we could have denied them the space to play their football, but as it was, Carroll and Bryson were left impotent and Noble was totally peripheral as the Tykes hared into the lead.  The penalty was grotesque, a mindless push in the back from Brayford standing as a pretty good symbol of his side’s total lack of engagement with the game in the opening 20 minutes.

Eventually, Noble was moved to the right flank, allowing Hendrick to move into central midfield and help to plug the gaps, but by then, the damage was already done.  The third goal was a direct result of Barnsley’s zest and confidence, the through ball exquisitely judged, the finish impishly cute.  Derby had barely got near them for half an hour, barely put in a tackle and as a result, the home side were playing with alarming fluency.

We simply weren’t good enough in any department.  Carroll must have been wondering what the hell he was doing, playing with such a rabble.  It could have been four, five, even six by half-time, easily.

The game was won in the first 20 minutes, as Barnsley took advantage of their extra man in midfield, dominating play with embarrassing ease. By the time Derby matched them up, it was too late.

Derby simply have not been that bad this season, which is what made it all so shocking.  It’s perhaps a good thing that the next match is Nottingham Forest at home, because a performance of that nature simply is not an option, not with 33,000 fans screaming blue murder.

The second half was completely different and Clough held his hand up after the game, admitting that the formation he started with (and possibly team selection, too) had been wrong.  Changing to a midfield three allowed Carroll to get on the ball and Derby went on to control possession for the majority of the half.

Suddenly, we were able to dictate the play and our general dominance and increased urgency was rewarded with Ward’s smashed free kick and should have resulted in a penalty, when Carroll was obviously clattered midway through an artful 360 spin in the box.  It’s one of the most blatant penalties you’ll ever see – not given.

We have the players to get the most out of a single striker system.  Bailey or Hendrick can hold, Bryson and/or Green can get forward and most of the central midfielders on the books can pick a pass.  Ball can play as a lone striker and Tyson and Ward are capable of causing problems in wide areas.

Carroll is an interesting addition to the mix and whilst Tommo makes the valid point that we are essentially developing a player for Spurs, with a potentially detrimental effect upon our own players, it seems clear that he will be good to watch over the next few months.

Once they were set up in a shape that actually suited them, the players managed to find the resolve to avoid the cricket score that seemed inevitable after half an hour.  Whilst Barnsley deserved their win for their vivacious first half performance, the locals were sufficiently rattled by the closing stages to resort to hiding the ball in the stand in an attempt to break up our momentum.  As Clough has said before, “it has to come from within” and the Rams at least proved that they won’t hide, or let their heads drop, even when things have gone as badly wrong as they did in the first 30 minutes.

So, we’ll put the first half down to an aberration, tactically from the management and in terms of a certain slackness in the players, take encouragement from the second half performance and move on, to Sunday.  Home, the old enemy, the opportunity to smash them when they’re down, a full house, the chance to make yourself a hero.  It’s all there for the players.  They must give us a performance to be proud of and they must, must win.

And if they play like they can, they will.

GOALS:
Theo Robinson 8
Steve Davies 5
Craig Bryson 4
Jamie Ward 4
Callum Ball 3
Jeff Hendrick 2
Chris Maguire 2
Tom Carroll 1
Tomasz Cywka 1
Paul Green 1
Tamas Priskin 1
(own goals 1)

ASSISTS:
Ben Davies 9
Craig Bryson 6
Jamie Ward 4
Lee Croft 2
Paul Green 2
Jeff Hendrick 2
Gareth Roberts 2
Theo Robinson 2
Tomasz Cywka 1
Steve Davies 1
Mark O’Brien 1
Jason Shackell 1
Nathan Tyson 1

DIRECT GOAL INVOLVEMENT (DGI)*

1. Theo Robinson 0.278
2. Craig Bryson 0.278
3. Ben Davies 0.25
4. Jamie Ward 0.222
5. Steve Davies 0.167

*DGI = Goals player directly assisted or scored / total goals scored by team

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