Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen has his say on the fixture schedule, defeat at Luton and facing Barnsley

Game five of a very demanding December fixture list sees Preston North End make the trip to Oakwell to face Barnsley.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 14th December 2020, 4:45 pm

The Lilywhites play eight matches this month, part of a run of a dozen games from late November through to early January.

It is a schedule which PNE winger Tom Barkhuizen believes is the most demanding he has faced in football and he won’t be alone with that point of view.

He thinks the relentless programme is behind a rise in the number of injuries being suffered in the game, citing the example of his Deepdale team-mate Patrick Bauer who is out for the season after damaging his Achilles tendon.

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Preston North End winger Tom Barkhuizen in action against Luton Town

Saying that, Barkhuizen and his PNE colleagues will welcome the chance to get back out on to the pitch at Barnsley on Tuesday night (7.45pm) in a bid to quickly put Saturday’s awful 3-0 defeat to Luton behind them.

Rather than stewing on it all week, they can try to do something about it rather than just discuss it.

The fixture list is rather congested this season due to the same number of games needing to be fitted into a shorter timescale caused by the later start to the campaign.

Even taking that fact into consideration, this current phase is a particularly tough one.

North End's Tom Barkhuizen crosses the ball against Wycombe at Deepdale

With teams playing every few days, it can make finding consistency in results difficult.

Barkhuizen said: “It is not impossible to be consistent in a long run of games but it is incredibly difficult.

“You are playing every few days and you don’t get any time to reflect on or learn from the previous one, good or bad.

“On paper you might have a big squad but once you’ve got five or six injuries, you do get quite limited.

“We can moan about it all we want, it is what it is.

“Do I agree with the schedule of games? No I don’t. I’m sure they could have figured something out.

“I was talking to Peter Ridsdale the other day and he was saying the second half of the season is easier than the first half.

“Why can’t they spread it about a bit more, do something to help the players?

“People’s careers are going to get ruined because of injury. We’ve heard of three players doing their Achilles recently, Patrick Bauer has done his here.

“You used to hear about one of those a season if that, so there’s something not right.

“We’ve got a midweek rest next week but that will be a rare one. It’s nice to have but it won’t bring back people from long-term injuries.”

Barkhuizen would be the first to hold his hand up and admit he didn’t play well in the Luton defeat – all of his North End team-mates would do likewise.

They didn’t raise a gallop at Kenilworth Road and what was especially frustrating was that it followed a good performance when beating Middlesbrough 3-0 just four days earlier.

Said Barkhuizen: “We put in a really good performance against Middlesbrough and followed it up with probably the worst performance we have had in years.

“It wasn’t good and it didn’t feel good. We have another game now to try and rectify that.

“The preparation to play Luton was no different to normal but for some reason we didn’t play well.

“We felt good beforehand, the warm-up was good but it’s only once the game starts that you start to feel where you are at.

“Personally, I felt I was half a yard away from everything, it was one of those games where nothing fell for us.”

Barkhuizen does think that while lessons need to be learned from the Luton game, it is important to step back a little bit from what happened and not let it consume them.

“We are closer to the play-offs than to the relegation zone, “ said the 27-year-old.

“I know 15th isn’t great and our form has been a bit up and down, but looking at the bigger picture we’ve only lost one in four which is not a bad return in this division.

“Obviously we would like to be putting a run of nine or 10 games unbeaten together but the schedule makes that difficult.

“You look at this league and the results are all over the place.

“Middlesbrough came here last week and we beat them 3-0. In their next game, they won 3-0 against Millwall while we lost 3-0 at Luton.

“You are seeing sides go one from one type of result to another all the time.”

Barkhuizen would like to carry on the form he showed against Barnsley last season.

He scored in the 5-1 win over the Tykes at Deepdale and then netted twice in a 3-0 victory at Oakwell.

“It would be nice to have a repeat of the first half at their place when we were three up by half-time,” said Barkhuizen.

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