John Roper’s Preston North End fans’ panel verdict on win at Barnsley: Alex Neil’s hint to owner Trevor Hemmings?
A thoroughly professional performance from North End saw the boys come away from Oakwell with all three points and a solid 3-0 victory.
All three goals came in a 25-minute period in the first half and, although you never know in football, the game was effectively over before the break as PNE had taken the heart out of a spirited Barnsley side.
All over the pitch there was solid performances with the two centre-backs of Bauer and Davies not giving an inch away all evening, and if you add Tom Barkhuizen’s man-of-the-match performance you can see why it was such a rewarding evening for North End.
Although the hosts started at a hundred miles an hour, Preston started to take the pace out of the game and then exerted their superior professionalism on the Tykes and got their just rewards.
Alex Neil made just one change to the side that beat Charlton on Saturday, bringing Ben Pearson back in with Sean Maguire reverting to the bench. Barnsley started the game at break-neck speed and delivered some very sweet passing and total football without ever looking like breaking a solid PNE defence.
North End weathered the storm and after 20 minutes took the lead with a well-worked goal form the right. Harrop played a ball through to Fisher and his cross found Barkhuizen unmarked to slot home and give Preston the advantage.
We had now taken control of the game and when Barkhuizen burst up the byline, the resulting Browne shot came back out to Johnson who scored with his right foot.
North End were all over Barnsley and on the stroke of half-time the game was over as a mistake in the home defence saw Barkhuizen collect the loose ball and fire home via a big deflection from the Tykes goalkeeper.
In the second half, PNE were in control right from the off and although Barnsley did exactly what they did in the first half, by starting quickly, the half followed a similar pattern as the visitors nous and professionalism proved far too much for a young Barnsley side who seemed bereft of ideas as to how to break North End down.
Potts and Maguire replaced Johnson and Sinclair as Preston looked to double up down the sides to ensure there was no chance of the home side getting back in the game.
It was all North End, although mostly in the middle of the park ,with the visitors very much adopting a ‘job done’ mentality.
Nugent replaced Barkhuizen with a quarter-of-an-hour left and looked very lively in his time on the pitch.
A great move saw a late chance for Harrop to make it four but the ball went inches wide and North End had to settle for just the three first half goals.
No doubt people will say that Barnsley are a poor side and you have to beat teams like that if you are going to make a serious challenge for those play-off spots.
Whilst that is true to a degree, Barnsley have been playing very well and you could see why in the opening spell of the game.
An early goal then and this could have been a completely different game but PNE looked very much like their confidence was coming back and after the first goal never really looked in danger of conceding.
So six points in four days is just what the doctor ordered and with 11 days until our next game, against Swansea at home, we can recharge our batteries and get ready for the visit of the Swans.
I thought Alex Neil’s comments at the end of the game, regarding us being in the best position we have been in for a decade, very interesting.
Surely a thinly veiled message to the owner to just push the boat out a little more and we could be in that top six come the end of the season.