PNE frontman is nominated for Championship player gong

Tom Barkhuizen
Tom Barkhuizen
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Hot-shot Tom Barkhuizen’s big breakthrough into the Preston team has led to him being nominated for the Championship player of the month award.

The 23-year-old attacker is on a four-man shortlist for the gong, with the winner being announced tomorrow.

March was a huge month for the ex-Morecambe man with him responding in style to being handed his first set of starts by Simon Grayson.

He found the net five times in North End’s four games in March, as well as providing an assist for Daryl Horgan’s goal against Reading.

Barkhuizen added to that tally on Tuesday night, giving PNE the lead in the 5-0 victory over Bristol City at Deepdale.

Lilywhites boss Grayson had gradually introduced Barkhuizen into the first-team picture after his move from Morecambe was officially registered in January.

Encouraging displays from the bench led to him making his first start at Fulham on March 4, with him netting in the Gentry Day game.

He followed that up with a stoppage-time equaliser at Derby, then Barkhuizen found the net twice in the 3-0 win over Reading.

In the derby at Blackburn on March 18, he gave North End the lead.

Announcing Barkhuizen’s nomination, award sponsors Sky Bet said: “He made the step up from League Two to the Championship look simple with five goals and an assist in March.

“Mobile and willing to run at defenders, he is capable of scoring special goals like his sweeping curler against Reading.”

Barkhuizen is up against Leeds striker Chris Wood, Bristol City centre-half Aden Flint and Luke Freeman at Queens Park Rangers for the award.

Something which has stood out is the versatility shown by Barkhuizen.

He has played up front, as a right-winger and at wing-back, his latest goal against Bristol City coming when he started out wide.

Grayson said: “Tom is a very versatile player from my perspective, you can play him anywhere across the front, as an out-and-out striker, a wing-back or winger.

“You look at him last week when we played Forest, he played down the middle and looked a constant threat.

“We moved him out to the wing against Bristol City and he did a good job , both in the opposition box when he came off the line and got central to score his goal and also he does the defensive duty as well.

“Hand on heart, I probably see him as an out-and-out striker who can run off the back of the defenders with his blistering pace.

“Ask him to do any other job and he will do it, the lad is a very willing worker.”

In the Championship’s manager of the month award, the nominees are Leeds boss Garry Monk – PNE go to Elland Road on Saturday – Wolves’ Paul Lambert, Steve Bruce at Aston Villa and Bristol City’s Lee Johnson who was on the end of Tuesday’s 5-0 defeat.