A superb second half display by Preston North End blew away Daniel Stendel’s Barnsley at Deepdale as they ran out 5-1 winners.
Daniel Johnson opened the scoring with somewhat of a rarity from him, a headed goal, looping the ball over Barnsley’s goalkeeper after Tom Barkhuizen’s initial shot had been saved.
However, the visitors drew level just before half-time when Cameron McGeehan fired home inside the six-yard box after Conor Chaplin had pulled back a deep corner onto the shins of a defender, before it fell to the scorer.
The second period, however, was one-way traffic as three goals in 13 minutes put the game to bed. Barkhuizen finished off Johnson’s excellent run and pass, Johnson himself added his second from Paul Gallagher’s lofted through ball, before Ben Pearson scored for the first time in over three years to make it 4-1.
Substitute Josh Harrop added a fifth with a beautifully weighted chip just after coming on as the Lilywhites went into the international break eight unbeaten in the Championship.
For the Lilywhites, Alex Neil made two changes to the side that took a point from Middlesbrough in midweek, David Nugent making his first start for the club since May 2007 and Gallagher returning to skipper the side.
Alan Browne was playing right back and on eight minutes he found Johnson who cut inside and forced a save from Brad Collins from 25 yards, with Sean Maguire unable to quite make a true connection with the follow up with a bouncing ball.
Collins was in fantastic form in the first half and denied Maguire a hat-trick. On 17 minutes he made a superb save from Maguire after a pull back from Johnson who took ball from Barkhuizen down the right.
Mid-way through the half, Joe Rafferty put over a driven cross from the left and Nugent met the ball with a powerful header which ended up just over the bar after a period of PNE pressure.
But the opener came on 31 minutes as Nugent found Barkhuizen on the right, the No.29’s shot was saved and DJ looped a header over Collins and into the top right-hand corner.
Another Brilliant save from Collins kept it at just one again denying Maguire after another pull back from Johnson on the left, but before half-time the Tykes were level.
It came two minutes before the interval as McGeehan poked home from pull back by Chaplin after corner from left was allowed to go through to the winger to pull the ball back off a defender and into path of the goalscorer.
It took just five minutes after half-time to go ahead again. It was excellent play on the left as Gallagher cushioned a header for Maguire to send Johnson away down the left and he pulled the ball across for Barkhuizen who took it in his stride, drew Collins off his line and slid the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from 15 yards out.
On the hour mark a glorious chance fell the way of Nugent to get his first goal back at the club after some scintillating build-up play eventually seeing Barkhuizen whip over a cross that was flicked on by Maguire, but the No.35 couldn’t get his shot on target at the back post.
But within 60 seconds it was 3-1 and it was Johnson again. Browne’s throw in was flicked on by Nugent and Gallagher lofted the ball in behind the Barnsley backline for the No.11 to run through and curl the ball left-footed under Collins into the bottom left -hand corner of the Alan Kelly Town End goal.
And it was four two more minutes later and wow, what a goal! It started in PNE’s own box as Davies headed out to Rafferty, who in turn headed on to Johnson, who again headed on for Barkhuizen. The winger raced down the left – at this point Pearson was 20 yards in side his own half – as the No.29 raced down the left away from Jordan Williams, the midfielder was making up ground as Barky reached the box and pushed the ball across the six-yard box, Pearson appeared and slammed home for his first goal since October 2016.
Harrop and Jayden Stockley came on for Nugent and Maguire and with one of his first touches Harrop made it five. It was great pressing as Johnson forced Toby Sibbick into a mistake and then Harrop closed down the defender and lofted a lovely chip over Collins before making sure it crossed the line.
Another sub, Brad Potts - against his former club - almost added a cherry to the cake in the four minutes of stoppage time as he chipped Collins on the volley from 25 yards after Johnson's delicious through ball from the left touchline. And there was even time for Stockley to meet a Gallagher cross, but it remained five despite Potts having another shot deflected over as PNE ended in rampant style.
PNE line-up: Rudd, Browne, Rafferty, Pearson, Bauer, Davies, Barkhuizen (Potts, 82), Gallagher (c), Nugent (Harrop, 73), Johnson, Maguire (Stockley, 74). Subs not used: Hudson, Storey, Ginnelly, Ledson.
Barnsley line-up: Collins, J Williams (Green, 81), B Williams, Brown (Wilks 55), McGeehan, Woodrow, Bӓhre (Styles, 68), Chaplin, Sibbick, Halme, Mowatt. Subs not used: Walton, Andersen, Thomas, Pinillos.
Attendance: 12,431 (1,339 Barnsley fans)
Referee: Mr G Ward