Preston North End frontman Tom Barkhuizen ready for West Bromwich Albion test at Deepdale
Tom Barkhuizen takes a pragmatic view of Preston North End’s form dip and indeed their season so far.
The Lilywhites host West Bromwich Albion at Deepdale on Monday night (7.45pm) on the back of defeats to Derby County and Hull City.
With the Baggies arriving in town in second place in the division, it is a big test for North End.
Front man Barkhuizen would rather they be going into the game in better form but points to the season as a whole as grounds for staying positive.
Barkhuizen told the Lancashire Post: “No one wants to lose games but it happens to everyone and it is no point worrying too much at the moment.
“If you look at the bigger picture we have had a good season so far.
“We are in the top six and if these two defeats had been spread out rather than coming together, we wouldn’t be talking about them too much.
“Of course we’d like to be higher and going top of the table a few weeks ago gave us a taste of it and raised expectations.
“But we are in that top group on merit and we want to push on from here.
“The Championship is the best in terms of it being the most unpredictable.
“There are 24 teams in the division and there is not a huge amount between many of them.
“In the Premier League results are quite predictable, you don't get too many surprises.
“But I honestly think that in the Championship everyone can beat each other on their day.
“I don’t think any team goes into game thinking 100% they are going to win.
“You know that you have to work so hard to get out of it what you want and it is all on the day.
“It is a very demanding league with a lot of midweek games.
“You have to recover quickly in between, get yourselves right.
“We were going great guns until recently, had won three on the bounce and been unbeaten in four.
“Now we have lost two games but that hasn’t meant we’ve turned into a bad side overnight.
“On the day Derby were better than us and then last Wednesday Hull were better on the night.
“We’ve got to get back out there and be better than the opposition on the day more times.”
Barkhuizen has been a regular starter in North End’s challenge in the upper reaches of the table.
He’s found the net five times in league action, with two more goals coming in the League Cup.
His versatility has been welcome for PNE manager Alex Neil who has used him this campaign both as a winger and striker.
It is on the wing where the majority of his games have come for Preston but he can be effective up the middle if Neil goes for pace to open teams up.
At Hull, Barkhuizen started as a striker before moving wider as the game went on.
Some would argue he might even have been best utilised at right-back at the KCOM Stadium as a shortage of defenders bit deep – Neil instead chose to play midfielder Ryan Ledson there.
North End will hope that home comforts can help them against West Bromwich, their form at Deepdale impressive to say the least.
They have won seven and drawn two in front of the home faithful.
With the Baggies and third-place Fulham the next two opponents at Deepdale – sandwiched either side of a trip to Queens Park Rangers – that is a record which will be put to the test over the coming week or so.
Barkhuizen said: “West Brom are one of the best teams in the league.
“They have recruited well and look strong.
“It will be a big test against them but I’m sure they will be thinking they’re in for a tough game at our place.
“Our home record is very good, it’s one to be proud of. We want to stay unbeaten here and we will be fighting every inch to make sure that is the case.
“We will give them the respect we do to all our opponents, study them closely and the gaffer will work out the best way to try and beat them.
“If we are at the top of our game, there is no reason why we can’t get something from it.
“We had a couple of days to try and get the Hull game out of the system and now the focus is on this game.”
It is Monday Night Football for PNE, with Sky Sports choosing the Baggies clash for live broadcast.
The cameras will also be in position for this month’s games against Fulham (Dec 10), Cardiff City (Dec 21) and Leeds (Boxing Day).
Having not had too much television exposure in recent seasons, Neil’s men have suddenly caught the eye of Sky.
They have won their two live outings to date this season, 3-1 victory against Stoke in August and last month’s 1-0 win over Charlton Athletic at The Valley.
That win sent them top before Albion replaced them the day after.