Tom Barkhuizen on why Preston North End are feeling benefits of playing at Deepdale
Tom Barkhuizen is enjoying the comforts of Deepdale at the moment, as Preston’s impressive home form continues.
North End will be back at Deepdale this weekend to welcome Lancashire neighbours Blackburn Rovers, and are still unbeaten at home this season.
Barkhuizen has two goals in his last three games, and despite the momentum PNE have – the Reading game aside – he feels that playing at home is giving them the edge, rather than their form.
He said: “Playing at home helps at the moment, our home form is so strong that we’re probably going into it with more confidence than we are away from home.
“There’s no denying that our record is better at home.
“And the fact that we’ve got another home against a team that’s doing okay, it does play into our hands a little bit that we are going into it with more confidence and hopefully we can use that.
“Over the last few years it’s been difficult to play at Deepdale because teams have come and sat off.
“I don’t know whether we’re taking our chances a lot more, that does help. Our chance conversion is pretty high, we are creating quite a lot of chances which is what we’ve been criticised for in the past.
“We’re happy with how we’re doing at home, we do need to up our away performances but the next game is at home and that’s all we need to look forward to.”
There were in excess of 18,000 present to watch Preston’s draw with Leeds in midweek.
There will be a similarly large crowd in PR1 this weekend.
Barkhuizen is looking to use the atmopshere as well as a bit of fear factor for the Rovers game, knowing that the visitors will be aware of their home record. He said: “The other night we had pretty much a full stadium, which is always nice as a player to walk out to.
“This is one of the games where we probably will get a full stadium again.
“When you do get the atmosphere you probably do get a bit more of a buzz and hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
“If you’re the opposition and you’re looking at a team that is so strong at home, and an away game in this league is difficult as it is, and when you know a team’s done so well, it does add that extra pressure.
“You do look at it with a little more caution.
“Thankfully we are in a position where teams are going to come and look at how strong we are at home. If we can replicate that form away from home then we’ll be a formidable force this season.”
Although Alex Neil has acknowledged the importance of the fixture, his winger is blocking out the occasion.
The 26-year-old will be treating it like any other game, but is hoping to add to his record of performing in derby games.
Barkhuizen scored in the opening minutes of this fixture last season, as North End ran out 4-1 winners and he does enjoy the derby clashes.
“That’s true, I think my record in derby games is better than pretty good.
“ Hopefully I can get another one.
“That set us on our way last time, hopefully we can do that again.
“We just see it as another game. The fans will be up for it a little bit more because you want that bit of bragging rights but for us it’s just another game, you get the same amount of points and we’ll try and get all three.
“To be honest, as a player, you sort of block out the fans, especially the opposition fans.
“Our home form is very good at the moment so any early goal makes it even more difficult for the opposition.
“Because of the way we play, if we score early then great.
“But if we don’t score early you know the opposition is going to get more confidence and more expansive and that plays into our hands.”
Despite his early goal last time Rovers visited, Barkhuizen targets the second half as where he expects to get his chances.
He expects to have to be patient and clinical, even more so when teams come to Preston to frustrate.
“Especially as winger, the first half is always difficult because especially when teams come to Deepdale,” he said. “They don’t play too expansive and they don’t want to open up and you know you’re not going to get that many chances.
“We’ve been in a position this year that when have been given those chances we’ve taken them.
“It’s about biding your time and knowing where you can start cheating a bit or where you can start relaxing a little bit more on your defensive duties; because at home you can’t just defend all the time.
“We’ve done that this season and it’s probably the best season we’ve had of doing it where all of our knowledge has come along so much better and we’ve come of age, hopefully we can keep that going.