Tom Barkhuizen admitted that he felt relieved after Preston North End secured their first win since February with a deserved triumph over Swansea City in South Wales.
Matt Grimes’ own goal in the 90th minute gave the visitors all three points after an impressive performance against Steve Cooper’s side.
Speaking to PNE.Com post-match, the No.29 said he was ‘delighted to get over the line’ with the three points.
He said: “It’s just such a relief to finally get a win. We beat Huddersfield a few weeks ago, but that feels like a lifetime ago.
“When you’re getting closer and closer to the bottom three, it takes a bit of pressure off. The most important thing for us is that we go again on Saturday because we can’t sit back now and think, ‘We’ve done enough,’ because we’ve got two good results – albeit two results we probably weren’t expecting to get.
I’m just delighted to get over the line and not just that, I think the performances the last few games have been good.
“Frankie has put the two up front, which we haven’t played quite a lot, and that’s not being disrespectful to the previous manager. He wants two up front to get balls in the box. Even the throw-ins that are going in the box, it’s just stick it in the mixer and see if we can get something and thankfully that’s what we’ve done in the end.”
More often seen as a winger, Barkhuizen has played in central midfield and at wing back in McAvoy’s two games at the helm thus far – but feels he has benefitted from being entrusted with a disciplined role.
“He’s [McAvoy] come in and played me left centre midfield and left wing back! He knows that I’m happy to play wherever as long as I’m in the team, he knows I’m not bothered. I’ll always give my best, as I always have done for this club. It’s nice to know that he can trust me in those positions because my discipline is a big part of my game.
He added: “It’s the Championship, it is going to be tough, we played a couple of days ago, we played two of the best teams in the league who like to move the ball better than anyone. We know it’s going to be tough.
“I like the fact that the manager has trusted me to play that role, I think it brings the best out in me when I’m trusted to do a disciplined job with also a licence to go forward. I think that’s a big thing. I’m dinking one to Sepp at the back post in the 88th minute – how many times would you see that for a team that’s been struggling? It’s good and it’ll be interesting to see what he’ll do over the next few days, tactics-wise for Brentford.”
The 27-year-old commended the display of the entire starting line-up and matchday squad.
“The whole team today was brilliant. We defended well, we kept a great clean sheet; Dan is so good off his line, he comes out and smothers things, Sepp’s bombing up from right wing back when he’s probably never played right wing back before, and then two in midfield are nice and solid and good on the ball.
“It gives the three in front licence to go forward and stay forward and try to get goals for us. We haven’t necessarily scored the goals and it’s an own goal today, but the fact is we’re posing a real threat and that’s the most important thing.
“They figured out our formation and started to drop the full backs out a little bit more and make the wingers play a bit wider. But fair play to Frankie, he’s told us to keep being aggressive. I think that’s why me and Sepp were in there because we’re both on the front foot. I know I’m more of a winger but he’s so quick and strong that he likes getting up and down and he knows that I’ll get up and down.
“The fact that the three centre halves are all quick gives you a licence to go because they know they’re going to be covering you. Having a positive mindset on the pitch, he’s instilled that, because when you’re not playing well, as a whole club it becomes a bit stale and it becomes a bit more negative.
“At the end of the day, the previous manager has gone and Frankie has come in and he’s just tried to lift the mood. Let’s be honest, we were struggling, we were heading towards League One at one stage. It’s great all-round, it will be a nice trip home and a nice couple of days off.”
And the No.29 said it has been important to recognise he and his team-mates form a good side in picking up four points from their last two against sides chasing promotion.
“I think we’ve said for the last couple of games to just stay in the game. We knew Norwich was going to be a tough game when they get chances. Thankfully they only took one, we stayed in the game and got the late goal. Today we limited them to very little, I don’t think Dan’s actually had a save to make, he’s smothered a couple of bits and come out and caught a few crosses but that’s what we wanted them to do.
“It’s just having that belief that we’re a good team, when we play well we’re a good team, it’s knowing what we are, we put the two up front, it might not be the prettiest stuff to watch at times but at times we played good stuff as well, it’s just eliminating the risk of playing in our own half. It’s a great feeling to finally get that win and I’m sure Frankie is over the moon.”
Barkhuizen felt Frankie’s positive attitude in the dying moments of the game was rewarded with the winner.
“It’s that confidence again in the back three; they’re all quick, they’re all strong, and he banks on them winning their battles. We all have our own individual battles even though we’re a team and today I think every single player beat their player and that was the important thing going into this game.
“What kind of sums it up is I think we got a throw-in in the 85th-minute and he’s saying, ‘Do you want to send the big man up?’ and I said, ‘No, just leave him for this one.’ But then we get a throw-in in the 90th-minute and Frankie is like, ‘No, get them up, we’re not coming here for a point,’ – just smelling that little bit of blood. We’ve got to take chances like that, we didn’t score today, we created chances but we didn’t score off our own back.
“We get a little bit of luck and I don’t think it’s coincidence that Frankie sends the big man up when it could have been easy for us to, ‘Throw it up to Ched, keep it in the corner, take a point and go home.’ I think everybody would have been happy with that, but boy will people be even more happy now.”
On learning it was North End’s first win away at Swansea in 60 years, the forward added: “Let’s just hope we don’t break that when we play Brentford at home because we’ve got a good record against them at home.
“It’s good, it’s always good to get a win, and I think the fact that we played against a team that’s top and fourth and picked up four points, I imagine a of teams below us were looking, thinking, ‘We can catch them over the next couple of games.’
“People are picking up points left, right and centre – Birmingham beat Swansea the other night and that was a bit of a kick in the teeth for us. But the way that we’ve reacted is just brilliant, it’s a great feeling.
“The way that we’ve celebrated the last two goals as a team just shows what players we are and how much we do care.”