Preston winger Tom Barkhuizen fighting fit again after illness
Alex Neil predicts that Tom Barkhuizen will be back at full throttle for Preston's clash with Birmingham City.
Illness limited the winger to 45 minutes of action from the bench in last week’s 1-1 draw at Millwall.
Neil’s intention had been to start Barkhuizen but he opted for new boy Billy Bodin on the right flank.
The PNE boss said: “In the first half at Millwall we lacked a runner in behind.
“Jordan Hugill, Callum Robinson, Josh Harrop and Billy Bodin all wanted to come towards the ball and it allowed Millwall to squeeze the game.
“Unfortunately Tom had been carrying an illness in the week leading up to Millwall.
“He would have started the game had he been fit.
“In the end Tom managed 45 minutes and even that was a bit of a stretch in terms of his fitness.
“After the game, Tom felt really fatigued.
“When he was ill he had lost a couple of kilos in weight and looking at him, he’s not the type who can afford to lose too many kilos.
“We just needed to be careful with him and that was the reason why he didn’t start.”
Until the Millwall game, Barkhuizen had started all of PNE’s league matches this term.
The week before he had been an unused sub in the FA Cup win at Wycombe as Neil rotated the squad.
“Tom has had a relatively heavy workload on him this season,” said Neil.
“He’s a big player for us as he runs well without the ball which creates the space for others to play in.
“Alan Browne is a running No.10 who stretches teams for us, Sean Maguire did that very well too before his injury.
“If you think at Millwall, Alan was played at right-back, Sean is injured and Tom was ill – we didn’t have runners to get in behind.
“In the second half I thought we did that better and played with more purpose.
“We got into better areas and scored the equaliser.”