Preston North End's next opponents Barnsley have hit form under new head coach Valerien Ismael

Barnsley are working under their second head coach of the season and the change is paying dividends in terms of results and league position.

By Dave Seddon
Monday, 14th December 2020, 12:30 pm
Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael
Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael

Preston North End visit Oakwell on Tuesday night (7.45pm) and it was will be Valerien Ismael sharing the technical area with PNE manager Alex Neil.

The Frenchman took the Tykes job at the end of October, replacing Gerhard Struber who left to become head coach at New York Red Bulls in the MLS.

Ismael has been in charge for 11 games, Barnsley winning seven and losing four of those. Before his arrival, they were winless in their first seven league games.

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Barnsley striker Cauley Woodrow

They have impressed Neil, a former Barnsley player, and he is expecting a keenly fought game in South Yorkshire.

Neil said: “They have changed their shape.

“Last year they preferred a diamond against us but they’ve gone 3-4-3 this season.

“Last season served them well, staying in the division was important and they’ve been able to add layers to the squad since then.

"They've added some experience and they found a system which suits them.

“They are hard to break down, energetic, direct in the first phase, they trigger a good press in terms of getting after the ball.

"Barnsley will give it a right go and it is going to be a tough match."

Ismael's men won 2-1 against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Saturday, Cauley Woodrow and Dominik Frieser with the goals.

Woodrow was a player reportedly on North End's radar over the summer, a player they first had an interest in when he was at Fulham.

The 26-year-old striker has scored seven goals in the Championship this season and is Barnsley's leading scorer.

A familiar face in the Tykes squad will be midfielder Matty James who had two loan spells with North End from Manchester United a few years ago.

James was one of three players summoned back by United from their loan stays at PNE by Sir Alex Ferguson after the sacking of his son Darren Ferguson in December 2010.

He went on to sign for Leicester City in 2012 but in recent seasons has suffered with serious injuries. This is his second spell on loan at Barnsley, having played for them in 2017.