Derby hosting Barnsley on a Thursday night in January wouldn’t normally be a fixture to draw the masses but those that descended on Pride Park to witness their new captain take to the stage will have left glad they did so.
Wayne Rooney, signed amid much fanfare, excitement and a degree of criticism in some quarters, finally made his debut in front of the live television cameras and overall will have impressed those watching on, not particularly running the game but effective in all he did both on and off the ball.
Youngsters thrived around him, Derby's academy products Max Lowe, Jason Knight and Max Bird all outstanding as attention focused on a player who can surely only help them as they aim to enhance their fledgling careers like the man himself did to such effect.
Take the 'Rooney effect’ out of the equation here and there were still areas of concern for the Rams, with several good openings wasted and some shaky defending making it far from a comfortable night’s viewing, but they did enough to claim back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Rooney took his place behind Martyn Waghorn and Jack Marriott in a diamond formation in midfield, Bird in front of the back two and Duane Holmes and Knight in between.
The Rams began brightly, as you’d expect given the atmosphere, Lowe’s ball over the top finding Marriott whose shot was blocked at the second attempt.
Marriott should then have scored on ten minutes when Knight released Waghorn down the left and his cross was put wide of the post by his strike partner who really should have hit the target from 12 yards out.
The third chance to come Marriott’s way was on 23 minutes and arguably the best so far, when released through the middle he had time to pick his spot but saw keeper Samuel Sahin-Radlinger block his effort wide for a corner.
Curtis Davies nodded wide from a corner moments later, before Rams keeper Ben Hamer had to be alert to block an effort which had rebounded back off Patrick Schmidt following a rare Barnsley attack.
Marriott was having a poor evening, as shown again when sent through on goal by Holmes but opting to take his shot early and lobbing it well wide of goal.
Lowe had to be brave to block a Conor Chaplin effort just before half-time as Derby struggled to clear a free-kick from out wide, but the Rams – and Marriott – would finally register on the stroke of half-time.
A free-kick wide on the left saw Rooney over the ball, and whereas in similar positions earlier on the debutant had opted to go for the back post, this time he went for the near post runners and one of them was Marriott who guided the ball into the corner of the net, his relief obvious given his earlier misses.
A generally average half therefore ended with a similar buzz emanating from Pride Park to that at its start.
Matt Clarke nearly headed Derby two in front in the opening moments of the first-half, his header from a corner tipped onto the post by Sahin-Radlinger.
Barnsley then hauled themselves level on 52 minutes as a low ball in from the right saw Chaplin’s shot saved but then fumbled by Hamer and Elliot Simoes followed up to net the rebound from close range.
Rooney then put a close range header wide of the mark with his first sight of goal, unable to get power or direction on his effort a few yards out, but the lead would be regained three minutes later.
Having been found by Rooney’s pass out wide, Andre Wisdom beat his man down the right hand side before getting to the byline and pulling the ball back for Waghorn to fire low first time past Sahin-Radlinger on 57 minutes.
Holmes then fired wide after another promising attack down the left, but Barnsley were never far out of the game and Chaplin’s strike five minutes from time forced Hamer to beat it away.
Then Simoes should have scored on 89 when Rooney’s error led to a ball into the box which Simoes got to but saw his shot tipped wide by Hamer, Luke Thomas putting a good opening well wide deep in stoppage time and Aapo Halme getting his head to a cross but Hamer gathering.
But the Rams would hold on to claim their second home win in four days and send expectant fans home happy with what they’d seen from their stellar new captain.
Derby: Hamer, Wisdom, Waghorn (Malone 74), Marriott (Whittaker 82), Clarke, Holmes, Lowe, Rooney (C), Davies, Knight, Bird
Subs not used: Roos, Forsyth, Martin, Bogle, Sibley
Barnsley: Sahin-Radlinger, Williams, Diaby, Andersen, Bahre (Simoes 26), Chaplin, Thomas, Schmidt (Brown 52), Oduor, Halme, Mowatt (C)
Subs not used: Collins, Dougall, Styles, Sibbick, Mottley-Henry
Ref: Dean Whitestone