Josh Earl catches the eye of Preston North End boss at Barnsley after being handed a rare start

Josh Earl impressed Alex Neil on his return to the Preston North End side against Barnsley.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 8:00 am

The 2-1 defeat at Oakwell last night was Earl's first start in the Championship since April 2019.

He spent last season away on loan at Bolton and Ipswich, while this campaign the 22-year-old's first-team chances had been limited to an appearance in the Carabao Cup and a substitute's run against Middlesbrough last week.

PNE academy graduate Earl played as the left wing-back in a 3-5-2 system, one which had Darnell Fisher and Andrew Hughes either side of Ben Davies at the back.

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Preston North End left wing-back Josh Earl battles with Barnsley's Callum Brittain at Oakwell

North End manager Neil said: "I thought Josh did well in the game, he was aggressive.

"In the first five or 10 minutes he was excellent, he was up and down the line. Naturally he is going to tire because he has not played a lot of football recently.

"He certainly wasn't an issue for us.

"I think Josh is better in that type of system because it allows him to do what I think he is good at which is going forward more with the ball.

"Strangely for his size, Josh is very good at dribbling with the ball and working forward, he has got a good delivery.

"He had that chance in the second half, he made a good contact and the defender gets in the way. Josh did fine."

Neil cut a frustrated figure after last night's game, one which his side led from inside the second minute through Sean Maguire's goal.

Alex Mowatt brought Barnsley level with a good finish from outside the box in the 54th minute, then substitute Victor Adeboyejo netted the winner with 10 minutes left.

The fact North End allowed the Tykes to take a quick free-kick in the build-up to Adeboyejo netting was a big source of Neil's frustration.

Neil had gone with a direct approach to the game, looking for Emil Riis and Maguire to win the ball high up the pitch and brings others into play.

It wasn't pretty but in the first half it was effective. However in the second half, Barnsley got more joy playing that way than North End did.

Neil said: "I the first half we kept the ball alive more, we controlled the game more and our back three were dominant.

"To be fair to Barnsley, I thought their back three in the second half did well. Their front lads started to do better in the second half as well.

"The introduction particularly of the lad who scored their second goal, he did well in terms of keeping the ball alive and kept it up the pitch more.

"The game was really decided on a basic mistake which shouldn't have happened.

"Barnsley's two goals were very good finishes but they had three shots and we have conceded twice.

"We played a back five and two centre midfielders in front of it, I couldn't put anymore players behind the ball.

"To still concede two goals when that happens is really frustrating."

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