DERBY County showed the other side of their game last night with a battling victory over struggling Barnsley at Pride Park.
The Rams made it two home wins in four days and secured back-to-back victories for the first time this season thanks to goals from James O’Connor — his first for the club — and substitute Nathan Tyson.
They ground out a win which was a far cry from the 4-1 champagne victory over Blackpool on Saturday.
But it showed Nigel Clough’s men can be patient and work hard for wins when things are not quite going their way.
They had to wait until 68 minutes to take the lead and it stayed tight — while not being uncomfortable — until Tyson’s screamer made the points safe.
Derby lifted themselves up to ninth in the table — just one point from the play-offs —with the victory, and finally put a five-year winless hoodoo against Barnsley behind them.
Not since Billy Davies’ Rams were on the cusp of promotion back in the spring of 2007 have they beaten the Tykes.
It was overdue and sets Clough’s braves up nicely for a nasty trip to Millwall on Saturday.
Derby’s starting side was unchanged following the destruction of Blackpool, with the only change seeing Jake Buxton return to the bench after suspension.
Valentin Gjokaj dropped out, while Frank Fielding (groin) and Jamie Ward (hamstring) are still coming back to fitness.
Burton-born Craig Davies was missing for Barnsley, who featured former Rams forward Tomasz Cywka in their line-up.
Derby put the visitors under pressure early on and they could have taken the lead after 11 minutes.
John Brayford showed some quick thinking to release Paul Coutts down the right and his low centre reached Theo Robinson 10 yards out, but he missed his kick and Tom Kennedy cleared.
Barnsley hit the Rams on the break on the quarter hour when the nifty Scott Wiseman got ahead of Robinson and nutmegged Coutts before surging past Richard Keogh into the area.
His low centre was hit just wide of the near post by Chris Dagnall under pressure from O’Connor.
The visitors began to get into the game and Jacob Mellis fired over the bar from 12 yards after Stephen Dawson pulled back from the byline.
Jeff Hendrick and Keogh both had shots from distance saved by Luke Steele before Conor Sammon followed Robinson in missing his kick from a cross — this time from the excellent Brayford, who was outstanding throughout.
Mellis stuck one into orbit on 40 minutes after Kelvin Etuhu left Gareth Roberts, Craig Bryson and Hendrick for dead down the right wing.
Youngster Will Hughes then showed solid technique with a stinging half-volley from the corner of the area that had Steele at full stretch.
Cywka outpaced Bryson and Coutts shortly after the restart but his low shot was deflected into the side netting.
On 55 minutes, Bryson — who had been a threat with his ceaseless running — beat two in the box before stumbling under a challenge from Jimmy McNulty when about to pull the trigger.
Mellis saw yellow on the hour for a cynical trip on Hendrick as he was about to shoot from the edge of the box. He had been fortunate to escape an earlier booking for a thuggish tackle on Brayford.
From the free kick, Coutts’ deflected effort almost caught Steele out, but he was able to fist the ball away.
Derby then took the lead on 68 minutes with O’Connor’s first goal for the club.
Dawson — who had walked a fine line with some of his challenges — chopped Sammon 35 yards out. Hughes floated the free kick in and Keogh got up to head against the post, with O’Connor tapping the rebound in from point-blank range.
The Rams continued to dominate and Tyson had a left-footed shot deflected onto the roof of the net seconds after coming on.
Dawson had to do better with a minute left when he met Kennedy’s corner with a volley 12 yards out at the far post.
But, unmarked, the combative midfielder hit it well over.
Tyson then sealed it with a spectacular second goal as the final whistle loomed.
He got the ball from Bryson, turned and smashed one from the D into the top corner past a helpless Steele.