The change of role in the Preston North End team for Tom Barkhuizen

Tom Barkhuizen has been one of the players Frankie McAvoy has turned to since he took the interim head coach job at Preston North End.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 12:30 pm

However, Barkhuizen has been used differently during McAvoy’s opening spell of matches than the winger role he has filled, in the main, in his four-and-a-half years at Deepdale.

In the Good Friday 1-1 draw with Norwich, Barkhuizen played on the left-side of a diamond-shaped midfield.

It was a very narrow role for the 27-year-old and one he did not look comfortable in.

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Preston North End's Tom Barkhuizen

When McAvoy switched to a 3-5-2 at Swansea on Easter Monday, Barkhuizen moved to left wing-back.

He started there again in the 5-0 defeat at Brentford and finished at left-back after the formation was changed in the second half.

Last Saturday at Stoke, it was wing-back duties again for Barkhuizen but this time on the right-hand side.

The right-footer had his strongest game of late at the bet365 Stadium, offering far more going forward.

Tom Barkhuizen in action during PNE's win at Swansea

McAvoy has had no qualms about playing Barkhuizen down the left, though.

“A lot of wide players play inverted, coming inside on to their stronger foot,” said McAvoy.

“We had Tom on the right at Stoke and in the second half when we got the wing-backs higher up the pitch he did exactly what we wanted of him.

“He is capable of getting at players, getting beyond them and putting good crosses into the box.

“Tom came inside and had a good shot, made their keeper work.”

Barkhuizen’s long throw-in has also been a feature of McAvoy’s time in charge.

The one game where he did not get too much chance to use it was ironically at Stoke, a club who used to have a reputation for creating chances from long throws.

Said McAvoy: “We’ve got some height in our team which gives us the chance of getting first contact on the long throws from Tom.

“It’s another way of trying to put pressure on, of getting the ball into the box.”

Barkhuizen is not too far off the 200-game mark for North End.

Like a dozen other PNE players, he will be entering the final year of his current contract in the summer.

Barkhuizen has featured in all but one of the league games this season, but 15 times he has come off the bench.

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