Cup goal gave Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen a lift after his post-lockdown slump

Tom Barkhuizen hopes that scoring in Preston North End’s first competitive action of the season is a sign that he has put a run of poor form behind him.

By Dave Seddon
Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 8:00 am

The frontman fired PNE ahead in their 4-0 victory over Mansfield in the Carabao Cup, drilling home a fine finish across the keeper from the right-hand side of the box.

By his own admission, Barkhuizen did not hit the heights in the matches after lockdown last season.

He featured in all nine, starting five of them, but did not find the net.

Tom Barkhuizen celebrates scoring in Preston’s victory over Mansfield at Deepdale

So to get off the mark right away this time – albeit with the Mansfield clash squeezed in with the friendlies – was a plus point for the 27-year-old.

Barkhuizen said: “I don’t like to dwell too much on things that have happened.

“I won’t say the actual word which would describe the nine games after lockdown but I was pretty annoyed with myself and my contribution.

“I’d scored 11 goals and done well before then, I’d set my level of expectation high.

“In those games I missed some massive chances which was annoying – at this level you have to put them away.

“That bugged me, it really did. I accept not playing well sometimes because that happens to us all. But to have missed some big chances didn’t sit well with me.

“To have got off the mark on Saturday was massive from a confidence point of view.

“What was funny was the reaction of the other lads, that I’d manage to hit one a bit like an arrow into the far corner.

“My goals, minus the one against Blackburn last season, are usually relatively scruffy or more simple.

“I’m always working hard on my finishing so it was nice to see that one go in.”

After sailing through the Carabao Cup first round, it is back to friendly action today for North End when they take on Burnley behind closed doors at Deepdale.

It is the first of three teams from the Premier League who Alex Neil’s men face this week.

They go to Bramall Lane to play Sheffield United on Friday, then travel to Everton the following day.

Said Barkhuizen: “These games will be big tests for us and a chance to get game time into the legs.

“I’ve felt pretty good since I came back to training, nice and sharp.

“I feel better now than I did after coming back after lockdown.

“As always I’m looking to improve this season. I’m 27 now and know what my strengths and weaknesses are.

“If I can improve my tally of goals and assists, improve the role I play in the team, I’ll do that.

“At the moment it is all about getting ready for the Swansea game, we’ve got a tough first five fixtures and we’ve got to be right at it.”