PNE boss ready for a high-intensity Barnsley battle

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Alex Neil expects Barnsley to be ‘high intensity’ opposition when they cross the Pennines to face Preston at Deepdale this weekend.

The North End boss, who wore the Tykes shirt for four years as a player, is well aware of the threat the visitors will pose as league action resumes after the international break.

George Moncur scored against Sunderland last month

George Moncur scored against Sunderland last month

Neil said: “They are going to be an intense team, they like to get up against you and make it difficult.

“Barnsley like to get the ball wide and put it into the box, get men forward.

“Equally, they are a good young group who when they lose the ball, work their socks off to get back behind it.

“I have played against Paul Heckingbottom teams before and they are difficult to play against.

“This game is going to be no different in that respect.”

Neil played 132 games for Barnsley between 2000 and 2004, having been a £25,000 buy from Airdrie.

They were happy days for the Scotsman, one of his four goals in their colours coming against PNE – he broke his nose in the same game.

“It feels like a lifetime ago that I was at Barnsley – I had hair then,” said Neil with a smile.

“I enjoyed my time there, I was really young and it was my first time playing down here.

“If you had told me then the path I had taken to be here, I wouldn’t have believed you.

“When I was at Barnsley, I didn’t think that coaching and management was something which would come further down the line for me.

“I had started my career at Dunfermline but left there as a young player because they told me I wasn’t going to play as many games as I wanted.

“I went to Airdrie, played matches and scored a few goals, then Barnsley signed me from there.

“That proved to be a good move and I was there for a while before moving on.”

It has been a summer of change at Barnsley, with 11 permanent signings and five incoming loan deals.

They cast the net wide, with a couple of signings from France and more closer to home.

Matty Pearson joined from Accrington, with Brad Potts leaving Blackpool to move to Oakwell.

Lloyd Isgrove, once a North End target, was signed from Southampton.

Experienced midfielder Gary Gardner was a 
deadline-day loan arrival from Aston Villa – four others have come from the Under-23s sides of Everton, Swansea, Chelsea and Leicester.

There has been movement out too, central defender Marc Roberts sold for big money to Birmingham.

Marley Watkins went to Norwich on a Bosman, while Josh Scowen joined Queens Park Rangers.

Barnsley have won two and lost three of their opening five league games.

Last time out, they beat Sunderland 3-0 at Oakwell, Ike Ugbo, Harvey Barnes and George Moncur on target.

Their other victory came against Nottingham Forest, 
Tom Bradshaw and Ryan Hedges with the goals.