Josh Earl was disappointed that his promising return to the Preston North End starting XI was marred by defeat as the Lilywhites were on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline at Oakwell against Valérien Ismaël’s Barnsley side.
The Academy graduate was making his first start for North End since April 2019, having spent time on loan at Bolton Wanderers and Ipswich Town last term, and encouraged on his return in a left-wing back role in South Yorkshire – even winning the corner which led to Sean Maguire’s opening goal.
The Irishman’s early header was cancelled out by Alex Mowatt’s second half strike, though, and Victor Adeboyejo won it for the hosts ten minutes from time, and Earl admitted that it was two quality finishes that won it for the Tykes.
“It’s good to be back, I’ve not played a league game for a long time now, it does feel good to be back but obviously the result isn’t what we wanted,” the 22-year-old told iFollow PNE.
“It’s two good finishes from them. We’ve obviously stopped doing the basics in the second half, but it became a little bit of a scrap and I think it’s just two very good finishes from them.
“It felt really good to be back, I was happy with my performance in the first half. I tired in the second half, but it’s all about the result at the moment and we’re all obviously absolutely devastated about the result. But we’ve got another game coming on Friday, so we’ve got to keep our heads up and go again.”
There were further chances for North End, with Emil Riis having the opportunity to extend the lead just before half-time but seeing his shot saved by goalkeeper Jack Walton, and Earl himself saw the goal open up after the break while the score was at 1-1, having his initial effort saved before sending the rebound over.
“It’s not my forte, hopefully it’s something I can work on in the future,” Earl said of the follow-up, which fell onto his right foot.
“It’s a completely different game if that [Riis’ chance] goes in, but they don’t go in all the time, so we’ve just got to take the chances we can do.
“Of course, Emil is thinking back on it now gutted and he will be, as all the lads are, but we’ve got to get behind him, get him ready and hopefully he’ll go and score a hattrick on Friday. We’ve just got to go again on Friday now and forget about this as much as we can.”
The defender praised the contribution of fellow left-footer in the backline Andrew Hughes, who he said gave him the confidence and licence to make an impact in attack.
Earl added that there was some misfortune in the result and Barnsley’s clinical finishing seeing them over the line, but with Bristol City’s visit to Deepdale now only three days away – coming in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Friday night – he said attentions must quickly turn to that next outing.
“I thought we defended quite well, we didn’t give them much, we’ve let them have a shot from the edge of the box, which nine times out ten might hit the post and go wide or anything else. I think it’s just a great finish from him.
“Again, the second goal, it’s a nice little bit of play and I think we’ve got to defend that better, but it’s a great finish and on a different day they don’t go in.
“That [Hughes’ performance] gave me the confidence to not stand right next to him because he played really well. You always know he’s going to win his headers, he did really well tonight, as a lot of the lads did quite well tonight.
“It’s just unfortunate about the result, unfortunate about the two good strikes from them and unfortunate about us missing our chances. I know I’m saying everything’s unfortunate but we have just got to forget about it and go again Friday because the games are coming thick and fast now.”
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