Man City loanee Brandon Barker’s making his mark at Preston North End
Brandon Barker has come in from the cold to catch the eye of Preston boss Alex Neil.
The Manchester City loan winger had featured in the PNE squad just once in three months.
However, he was restored to the bench for the derby clash at Blackburn and has featured in the last three games as a substitute.
Barker made a late cameo in the Rovers game, helping North End see out a 1-0 win.
At Middlesbrough last week, the 22-year-old came on at half-time and played a big part in turning the game in Preston’s favour.
He was a 74th-minute sub against Birmingham as PNE chased – and got – a winner.
After his display in the win over Middlesbrough, there was an argument for him to have started last Saturday.
Neil said: “The problem we had got was that we knew the Birmingham game would be really tight.
“Birmingham played with two banks of four and we were never going to get Brandon on the ball at that stage.
“That is why I didn’t start him. I just felt he was going to have more of an impact as the game opened up and their two banks became stretched.
“That happened, he got in between them and did well.
“Another reason why I didn’t start Brandon is that he hadn’t played many minutes.
“If I’d started him he would probably have hit 60 minutes and we would then have lost his impact.
“I thought his impact would suit us later in the game and it did.”
Barker arrived in August on a season’s loan from City, quickly followed by club-mate Lukas Nmecha.
He scored in PNE’s League Cup wins over Morecambe and Leeds in August – his solo effort at Elland Road a goal of the season contender. In December’s 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest, Barker damaged his hamstring and was out until the FA Cup tie against Doncaster Rovers in January.
He played 30 minutes of that game from the bench but was then out of picture until the Rovers game.
In that time, Neil tweaked formation to a 4-1-4-1, with Brad Potts, Sean Maguire, Tom Barkhuizen and Paul Gallagher filling the wide roles at different times.
Barkhuizen’s absence with a knee injury for the last three games has opened the door for Barker’s return.
Meanwhile, North End have been given an extra batch of tickets for the away clash with Reading on March 30.
Having sold around 900 of their initial 1,200 allocation for the Madjeski Stadium, an additional 1,000 tickets have been sent.
Tickets are priced £15 for adults, £10 for seniors, £8 for 14 to 18-year-olds, £5 for under-18s and £2 for under-13s.