Derby 2-1 Barnsley: Wayne Rooney provides assist on debut as Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn goals seal Championship victory
- Wayne Rooney made his first Derby start as the Rams defeated Barnsley 2-1
- Rooney produced a fine free-kick which Jack Marriott converted on 45 minutes
- Elliot Simoes levelled after Ben Hamer failed to hold Conor Chaplin’s shot
- Martyn Waghorn slotted in on 57 minutes as Derby secured back-to-back wins
Wayne Rooney could not manage a goal on his return to English football but produced two moments of quality that showed he can still make an impact at the sharp end of the game.
Given the captaincy by Derby boss Phillip Cocu on his first competitive appearance in this country since April 2018, Rooney showed his enduring class when he delivered a laser-guided free-kick to create the opening goal for Jack Marriott, before his glorious crossfield pass started a move that ended with Martyn Waghorn restoring Derby’s lead.
Although he did well to last the full 90 minutes plus stoppage time, it was clear from his debut that Rooney, a great of the Premier League era, will need time to gain the sharpness required for this division.
Wayne Rooney provided an assist on his Derby debut in a home victory over Barnsley
Martyn Waghorn wheels away after scoring Derby’s second goal of the evening at Pride Park
DERBY: Hamer. Wisdom, Davies, Clarke, Lowe, Holmes, Rooney, Bird, Knight, Marriott (Whittaker 82), Waghorn (Malone 74)
Subs not used: Forsyth, Martin, Roos, Bogle, Sibley
Goals: Marriott (45), Waghorn (57)
BARNSLEY: Radlinger, Williams, Diaby, Andersen, Oduor, Bahre (Simoes 26), Halme, Mowatt, Thomas, Chaplin, Schmidt (Brown 52)
Subs not used: Dougall, Styles, Sibbick, Mottley-Henry, Collins
Goals: Simoes (50)
Referee: Dean Whitestone
The 34-year-old was confident he would have ‘no problem’ adapting to the relentless nature of the Championship, and Derby hope he will gain rhythm simply through playing.
For now, his mere presence is enough: this was the Rams’ second win on the bounce after going seven without a victory, with Waghorn’s 57th-minute strike securing the three points after substitute Elliot Simoes had briefly brought Barnsley level.
Rooney agreed his 18-month player-coach deal last August, but his commitments with former club DC United meant the agreement could not start formally until Thursday. The Rams have had a hugely difficult season on and off the field and are hoping Rooney’s presence will revive them.
Not only are they eight points adrift of the play-offs, the club are still recovering from the incident following a team-bonding session in September that ultimately led to the dismissal of captain Richard Keogh, and driving bans for team-mates Mason Bennett and Tom Lawrence. Then Sportsmail revealed on Thursday that the latest round of players’ wages had been paid late.
Jack Marriott celebrates after giving Derby the lead on the brink of half time
Rooney’s impact was immediate when he joined DC United, who he inspired to the MLS play-offs in his first campaign, and Derby hope he will do the same here.
He was greeted with enthusiasm by most of the 27,782 crowd though it was quickly clear that Rooney will take time to get up to speed in the Championship.
Playing in a central midfield role in the home side’s 4-1-3-2 – boss Phillip Cocu had changed the system to accommodate him – Rooney’s lack of match sharpness was immediately apparent. Wearing the captain’s armband, he offered plenty of encouragement to his team-mates but struggled to get on the ball regularly as he sought to stay with the pace of the game.
Barnsley goalkeeper Samuel Radlinger throws himself to his right to save Matt Clarke’s header
There was nothing wrong with the 34-year-old’s touch when he did receive the ball, and he played one effortless lofted pass to overlapping right-back Andre Wisdom.
Derby owner Mel Morris has praised Rooney’s impact off the field since he started training with the club in November, but right now Derby need him to deliver on it. Their win over Charlton on December 30 was their first in eight games, and forward Jack Marriott wasted two excellent first-half chances to put them ahead against an improving Barnsley side.
In the final minute of the half, Rooney made his mark, swinging over a perfect free-kick from the left that Marriott bundled in from close range. Rooney punched the air in celebration, before jogging to the touchline for a quick drink.
Barnsley substitute Elliot Simoes (centre) celebrates after scoring the leveller on 57 minutes
Early in the second half, Derby were denied a second goal when Samuel Sahin-Radlinger brilliantly tipped Matthew Clarke’s header on to the post, and the visitors equalised moments later when substitute Elliot Simoes slid the ball in from close range after the home side had failed to clear a free-kick.
Then Rooney, after a rare foray into the box, could not guide a close-range header on target, the ball flicking his shoulder and drifting away from goal.
He was instrumental in Derby’s second, though, again finding Wisdom with a perfect pass, and the right-back’s low cross was turned in first time by Waghorn.
Rooney harries Barnsley defender Aapo Halme during the first half at Pride Park
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