Tom Barkhuizen on how a narrower role saw him help fire Preston North End to victory against Bradford
A narrow-minded approach from Tom Barkhuizen helped Preston North End see off Bradford City in the Carabo Cup.
The winger tucked inside at Valley Parade rather than playing too wide and it paid off as Barkhuizen scored twice in the 4-0 win.
For good measure, Barky played the last 20 minutes of the tie as a centre-forward on what was a good evening’s work in West Yorkshire.
Barkhuizen’s double was book-ended by an Andre Green opener and a welcome return to the scoresheet for Josh Harrop.
Victory was a stroll for the Lilywhites, hosts Bradford a poor second on the night.
Alex Neil changed all 11 starters from Saturday’s win over Wigan to give others a chance to shine.
Sometimes mass changes backfire but on this occasion Neil’s selection policy proved to be spot on.
Over the 90 minutes he was able to give 14 players time on the pitch. Tuesday night’s outcome will certainly provide the PNE boss with food for thought as he selects a team to face Swansea City this weekend.
Barkhuizen will have been one to push himself back into Neil’s thoughts in terms of a start at the Liberty Stadium.
He and Green played either side of Jayden Stockley, to clinical effect.
Barkhuizen said: “Myself and Andre played with a lot of freedom, we could basically go wherever we wanted.
“The goals are the sort I’m looking to get more often. As a kid I was a striker and the goals I scored against Bradford came from a striker’s
“Generally I do enjoy playing closer to the striker.
“I’ve spoken with the gaffer a lot over the last year about being narrower, being more effective inside.
“For my first goal it was a great ball from Ryan Ledson, my first touch was perfect and I managed to slide it in.
“It was similar to one I got against Blackburn a couple of years go.
“A winger’s role varies – at Millwall the gaffer asked me to stay out wide but it didn’t work out and I didn’t play in the next game.
“Football is a game when you have try and mix things up, try different things.
“I played the final part of the game as the striker. Jayden had tired so I went up front.
“We saw the game out and got the win we deserved.”
North End were far too good for a Bantams side which was heavily changed too from the weekend.
Gary Bowyer made eight changes to his starting XI, one of the three players to stay in the side being former Preston striker Eoin Doyle. It’s fair to say that Doyle did not get much of a sniff.
For the 917 travelling PNE fans there was a first look at Tom Bayliss.
First impressions were promising, the midfielder showing plenty of purpose once he had come to terms with a slippy surface on which he lost his footing a couple of times.
Bayliss teamed up with Ledson in the middle, Ledson having a very good game on his return from a four-game ban carried over from last season.
Effectively North End had the contest won inside 19 minutes.
That was how long it took them to take a 2-0 lead, one which they never looked like surrendering.
Two goals in the second half merely underlined their control.
Neil’s men went in front in the 13th minute, Tom Clarke’s cross from the right met on the run by Green who volleyed into the net from six yards.
When Ledson was given the time and space to thread a ball through the Bradford backline, Barkhuizen darted to meet it, took a touch and then slid a low finish past the keeper as he came off his line.
The Bantams’ best spell of the match came after half-time, Connor Wood seeing a shot bounce off the bar.
It jolted PNE back into life and they were gifted the third goal eight minutes into the second half.
Anthony O’Connor played a pass across the face off the box, Barkhuizen stealing in to take the ball on and finish with a left-foot shot.
Josh Harrop had been on the pitch a matter of seconds when he netted the fourth goal, his 18-yard shot looping off O’Connor over the keeper.