Johnson key to Tykes’ revival ahead of PNE visit

Conor Hourihane is Barnsley's leading scorer with 13 'goals this season

Conor Hourihane is Barnsley's leading scorer with 13 'goals this season

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Barnsley have been League One’s most upwardly mobile side over the last month, boasting a strong run of form as they prepare to welcome Preston North End to Oakwell.

A 5-1 defeat at Crawley on February 14 left the Tykes in 19th place in the division.

Wind the clock forward and they currently occupy sixth spot, coming on the back of six successive wins and Tuesday night’s goalless draw at Leyton Orient.

Four of those victories have been overseen by Lee Johnson, who quit Oldham at the end of February and crossed the Pennines to succeed Danny Wilson in the Barnsley manager’s office.

Joint caretaker bosses Mark Burton and Paul Heckingbottom had won two of their three games in charge, the one blip being that heavy loss to Crawley.

That gave Johnson a base to work from and he has started off in impressive fashion.

Having beaten another team in form in the shape of Peterborough in midweek, North End manager Simon Grayson hopes for the same outcome this weekend.

Grayson said: “We played an in-form side the other night in Peterborough – they had won four on the trot – and that was a tough match. Lee Johnson has gone in at Barnsley and done a great job.

“They drew the other night at Leyton Orient but won four before that after Lee had gone in.

“They have got something going there and given themselves a fantastic opportunity of getting back in the play-off situation.

“This will be a tough game. Barnsley have got players who have played at a good level but also have recruited some good young players . Their recruitment policy has been good over the last few weeks and months but also Lee has changed things around and given them the impetus, confidence 
and belief to get 
results.

“He did a good job at Oldham, implemented some good ideas there and got them playing a style of football which, each time we played against them, gave us good game.

“Lee is learning and developing and obviously felt a move to Barnsley would help his 
career.

“He must have felt he was getting 
the right vibes to do something at Barnsley and made the decision to go 
there.”

The Tykes’ attack is likely to be led by Sam Winnall, the striker a former triallist with North End.

In the summer of 2012, he played three pre-season games for PNE while on Wolves’ books.

It was 12 months later that Winnall’s career took off when he joined Scunthorpe.

A ratio of a goal every two games with Scunny last season earned him a move to Barnsley last summer.

Winnall missed all of the Tykes’ games in December and January because of a hamstring injury.

He has still scored 10 goals for them this season, their second highest scorer behind midfielder Conor Hourihane who has 13.

Manchester United loanee Ben Pearson will be in the Barnsley midfield.

The 20-year-old was thought to be on PNE’s radar as a potential loan signing in November.

Pearson moved on loan to Oakwell in January and has been key in their rise up the table, playing 14 games and scoring one goal.