Preston North End shot back up to 3rd place with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Barnsley on Saturday. In truth we could have scored 10 with Seani Maguire spurning a few chances and let’s not go into David Nugent’s miss that would have sent Deepdale into euphoria. We head into the international break in fine form, unbeaten in 8, and as the highest goal scorers in the league.
Here are 5 things we learned from the Barnsley game:
DJ Had His Best Game of the Season if Not of His Whole PNE Career
The North End number 11 was in scintillating form on Saturday. To say that was his best game of the season is already high praise given that he has been our star man on multiple occasions already this season. He took his two goals very well including a rare header.
He provided a perfectly timed and weighted pass for Tom Barkhuizen’s goal at a crucial time in the game, and his hassling of the Barnsley defence led to Josh Harrop scoring the 5th. He also provided Seani Maguire with three great chances in the first half. DJ didn’t put a foot wrong, 7 goals already this season. With 4 assists as well, his 11 goal contributions are 3 more than the next best placed player in the division; Tom Cairney of Fulham (5 goals, 3 assists).
His confidence is growing and growing game by game. This man is worth the entry fee to Deepdale alone so far this season. All this for just 50 grand!
Browne is More Than Comfortable at Right Back
We’ve seen him slot into this role a few times now, mainly in cup games and he has done okay. With Darnell Fisher suspended, Tom Clarke injured and Joe Rafferty already deputising at left back we had no other options.
Barnsley didn’t trouble us at all, but I thought Browne had a solid game at right back and didn’t look out of place. Obviously he can be dangerous further up the field as well, so it gave us some great balance on the right hand side. It was one of his better games for us this season having been in an out of the side mainly due to the form of our other midfielders.
Jayden Stockley is Struggling to Find His Place in This Team
At the moment we are playing great attacking, fluid football. The movement of Maguire, Barkhuizen and David Nugent yesterday was superb. That’s probably as good as we have looked on the attacking side all season. Obviously we will come up against tougher defences, but we consistently created space and tore through the Barnsley backline.
When Stockley came on it was clear he doesn’t quite fit into that style of play. He lacks the pace and doesn’t create space with any runs. He offers us height and holding up the ball, which has its uses in certain games. However, with the way we are currently playing, he doesn’t fit into our tactics and Alex Neil has alluded to this.
By no means did he play badly yesterday when he came on but you could see a massive difference compared to when we had Nugent down the middle.
5 Goals from Open Play Shows we Can Create Chances
We’ve relied a lot on set pieces for many of our goals this season and we’ve been thankful for the amount of penalties we’ve been awarded and scored as well. So it was refreshing to see all 5 of our goals on Saturday come from open play. We exploited a nervous Barnsley defence, got the ball down and ran at them.
Our front three’s constant movement created space for DJ and Paul Gallagher to play into. We played some defence splitting passes; Nugent for the first, DJ for the second, Gally for the third and Barkhuizen for the fourth. Our attacking play was spot on, and we really should have scored a few more goals. I think Nugent starting this game was key to that.
He’s still a very classy player despite being in the twilight of his career. His movement is great, he still has great energy and already seems to have formed a good connection with the rest of the team.
We Need to Stop the Soft Goals We’re Conceding
Barnsley somehow found a way back into the game just before half time despite our dominant first half display. It was underserved and was their only chance of the game really. Well, it was their only shot on target. The corner wasn’t dealt with at all, with Conor Chaplin left unmarked at the back post and nobody picked up Cameron McGeehan either who tucked the ball home.
It was sloppy and we had enough men in the box to deal with the situation. Luckily it didn’t cost us, but we also conceded soft goals against Middlesbrough and Bristol City. Those ones did cost us points.
Despite Ben Davies and Patrick Bauer standing out for us more often than not, we still look shaky on set pieces and could do with Declan Rudd commanding his box a bit more.
Overall though, it was a fantastic game and another home win. Check out our player ratings piece from the game here.