Tuesday sees Preston North End’s second away trip in four days when they travel to Oakwell to take on Barnsley.
They will go into the game needing a response after Saturday’s disappointing 3-0 defeat at Luton Town, an afternoon which you would struggle to take many positives from. North End were second best throughout much of the match, barring a 10-minute spell in the first half, and never really looked like preventing Nathan Jones’s men from taking the three points.
An interesting point to raise is the return of crowds in some tier two areas, one of which is Luton. Whilst it is, of course, great to see fans back, given what we have seen over the last nine months, and how much of an impact behind closed doors football has had on players and performances in some cases, it would be hard to argue against this representing some sort of an advantage over teams that are not allowed fans in stadiums.
Marcelo Bielsa argued in November that fans should be banned from all Premier League matches until all clubs are allowed them back. I’d wager that some Championship managers would probably agree with him.
But that takes nothing away from Luton’s performance against PNE on Saturday. They were excellent, they worked tirelessly throughout the game and thoroughly deserved all three points.
It means that North End will be desperately wanting to bounce back tomorrow night. Barnsley struggled with inconsistency at the beginning of this campaign, but have won seven games out of 11 since new manager Valerien Ismael took charge of the Tykes in October. That leaves them two points ahead of Alex Neil’s side, after back-to-back victories over Wycombe and Sheffield Wednesday.
They also have one of the league’s leading marksmen in Cauley Woodrow, a player North End were allegedly interested in in the summer transfer window, who has scored 37 goals for the club since joining them in the summer of 2018.
Given Ismael’s recent pedigree – he guided Austrian side, LASK Linz, to the last 16 of the Europa League last season – it is perhaps no surprise that he has started strongly. North End, though, will be hoping to put a dent in his side’s recent form.
There is no better place to start than with Woodrow. The 26-year-old striker has gone from strength to strength since arriving from Fulham two years ago, notching 16 goals in his first season to help the Tykes to promotion from League One.
His 14 strikes last season was an impressive haul, despite struggling for goals following the league restart. Woodrow has seven goals from 14 games this term, including three in his last four in the Championship.
The forward has also provided three assists so far this campaign, whilst his hold-up play is also highly rated. As I already mentioned, he is a player that has been linked to North End on several occasions in the past, and has the attributes that would surely see him slot into Alex Neil’s system if that opportunity ever arrived.
Another player to watch out for is former Premier League midfielder Matty James.
The 29-year-old has suffered a series of serious injuries in the last few seasons, having first suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in May 2015 for Leicester. James missed their entire Premier League-winning campaign, before joining Barnsley on loan for 2016/17, scoring once in 18 games.
Further injury troubles have set him back since, but he joined the Tykes on loan in October and has since spent time building up his match fitness.
James started in both wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe, and has since received plaudits from fans for his intelligent play and set piece ability. North End will surely be wary of his ability to shoot from range – his strike against Nottingham Forest whilst on loan at PNE still sits at the forefront of the memory.
The third player to watch for North End is midfielder Callum Styles.
The 20-year-old joined the Tykes from Bury in 2018, and began to establish himself in the first team towards the end of last season.
He has kicked on even further this season and has become a real fan favourite at Oakwell. Styles has three goals from 18 appearances, including the opener in the 2-1 win against Wycombe last week. He also sits near the top of the table for most tackles won in the Championship this season, and is no doubt a player to keep an eye on at both ends of the pitch.
Unfortunately, there is no opposition view. We were unable to source a Barnsley fan who could help out in time. However, you can take a look at some stats from their season so far by clicking here – Barnsley stats.
It will be by no means an easy task for North End to come away from Yorkshire with three points, given the relatively strong form that Barnsley are in.
Despite Saturday’s defeat to Luton, though, PNE still sit in the top three as far as away form is concerned. And we’ve seen in recent months how fluid Alex Neil’s side can be away from Deepdale.
It should be a good game to watch, and I’m going to back North End to win this one 2-0.
In terms of my starting XI, I would expect Daniel Johnson to return to the side from the start after he came off the bench at Kenilworth Road. I’d like to see Sean Maguire return up front, whilst Jordan Storey could well keep his place after joining the action alongside DJ for the second half against Luton. My prediction for the starting XI is: Rudd; Fisher, Storey, Davies, Hughes; Ledson, Browne; Barkhuizen, Johnson, Sinclair; Maguire.
Will this be enough for North End to keep up their impressive away form this season? Let us know on twitter here – @fromthefinney. We’re also creeping closer to 2,000 followers on twitter, too. If you aren’t already following us, we’d appreciate if you could hit that follow button.
You can read our latest Monday column for our friends over at Lancs.Live now. This week’s piece is from Oli and he outlines the need for defensive additions in the coming January window.
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