But some pick-me-ups you cannot get on the National Health, and the fact that Barmby's was dispensed just four minutes from the end of what seemed destined to be a goalless draw gave it an added sparkle.
Everton had spent most of the match trying to raise the Derby siege, and Barmby's involvement had been limited to the odd breakaway. Then Joe Parkinson picked up the ball 25 yards out and let fly with a dipping drive that cannoned back off the crossbar and into Barmby's path. He headed it down and in, and Everton were Derby's unlikely conquerors.
Just what the doctor ordered for Joe Royle, but a real sickener for the Derby manager, Jim Smith, whose side had been brimming with the sort of confidence a five-match unbeaten run brings.
With a tight defence pivoting comfortably round Paul McGrath, whose experience more than compensates for the yard of pace the old legs have lost, they had the speed and invention up front to keep Everton on the back foot for much of this game.
Their striking partnership of Ashley Ward and Dean Sturridge showed the ability to turn a defender and make unlikely quantities of space for themselves in the box, and if the Rams' final touch had been as good as their approach work they might have put the match well beyond Barmby's late intervention.
But having created the chances, they either put them into the arms of Neville Southall or missed the target completely. Aljosa Asanovic lobbed the ball over the bar from just six yards and Ward headed over from a similar range.
Everton's finishing, when they managed a sortie into Derby territory, was little better. Andrei Kanchelskis grazed a post and Michael Branch squandered three good opportunities, hitting the side netting, scuffing wide and allowing himself to be bundled off the ball by a pursuing defender with only Russell Hoult to beat.
Jim Smith was understandably frustrated. "We had great chances but we didn't put them away and I was always afraid that they would break out and this would happen."
Joe Royle was more philosophical. " We didn't play well today but we came away with the three points which is a good sign. It was smash and grab for us but the better chances that did come along were ours," he said. "We should have had a penalty when McGrath brought down Barmby early on but it wasn't given.
"You have got to win games like this to be successful. We were a little bit unbalanced tonight with too many forwards in the side."
Fortunately for him, one of them was Nick Barmby.
Derby County (3-5-2): Hoult; Rowett, McGrath, Stimac; Laursen, Flynn, Asanovic, D Powell (Dailly, 89), C Powell; Sturridge (Gabbiadini, 85), Ward. Substitutes not used: Willems, Carsley, Taylor (gk).
Everton (4-4-2): Southall; Barrett, Watson, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe; Kanchelskis, Barmby, Parkinson, Speed; Ferguson, Branch (Stuart, h-t). Substitutes not used: Rideout, Hottiger, Short, Gerrard (gk).
Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).Reuse content