Fortune favoured Preston North End – and matchwinner Tom Barkhuizen – admits manager Alex Neil

Tom Barkhuizen and Jayden Stockley celebrate Preston's comeback against Blackburn at Deepdale
Tom Barkhuizen and Jayden Stockley celebrate Preston's comeback against Blackburn at Deepdale

Alex Neil has admitted that Tom Barkhuizen was almost substituted before becoming Preston’s matchwinner in the derby with Blackburn.

The Lilywhites came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in front of a 19,165 crowd at Deepdale.

Barkhuizen started the comeback with a goal eight minutes into the second half.

Daniel Johnson equalised from the penalty spot before Barkhuizen hit the winner in the 82nd minute with a finish he described as his best in a North End shirt.

PNE boss Neil said: “I will be honest, right before Tom scored his second goal I had Billy Bodin and David Nugent in my head to come on.

“I was going to go two up top and play Billy off the right.

“I’d told them to warm up and then Tom bends that one into the top corner.

“With Billy and Nuge it was then a case of, ‘Never mind lads’, and we got Brad Potts ready to go on instead!

“Tom is so flexible, we started him up the middle to try and get down the sides of their central defenders.

“We didn’t pick up enough second balls for that to happen so we had to change it.”

Neil and the Preston fans saw their side put in a woeful display in the first half, with them trailing 2-0 within 11 minutes.

So much so that Neil made a substitution with just 29 minutes played, replacing Paul Gallagher with Jayden Stockley.

That proved an inspired change, Stockley’s presence up front helping to change the flow of the game.

The former Exeter frontman gave the Rovers defence a battering and was involved in the build-up to all three goals.

Said Neil: “When we first brought Jayden on we didn’t get the balance right.

“We needed to hold our width on the side we were kicking to and then get the wide players rolling in.

“We weren’t doing that, when Jayden was flicking it on there was no one there to pick it up.

“At half-time we sorted things out, we gave ourselves a better balance.

“In the second half we got it forward better, we picked up more second balls and were a lot more threatening.

“At half-time I did let the lads know how I was feeling.

“Initially they needed to feel the pain I had felt for the first half watching that.

“I said a few things which needed to be said then I let them refresh a little bit.

“Then it was a case of, ‘Let’s fix this, let’s get back into it’.

“I was delighted that they turned it around. It is easy to criticise but what is much harder is to take that criticism on board and put in a really positive performance in the second half to win the game.

“We needed that win – we didn’t want to go ‘loss, draw, loss’.”