Goals from Jordan Storey and Ched Evans gave Frankie McAvoy’s Preston North End a 2-0 victory over Barnsley in the final home game of the 2020/21 season.
Storey’s first goal at Deepdale was a poacher’s strike from one of many set pieces in the opening half, Ryan Ledson’s delivery from a corner causing havoc, for the centre half to drill home from inside the six-yard box.
Evans then doubled the lead before five minutes of the second half was gone, his fifth goal in a Lilywhites shirt, after Storey had flicked on Barkhuizen’s long throw in.
There was one change from the side that won the previous week against Coventry City at St Andrew’s, with Greg Cunningham returning at left wing back, allowing Tom Barkhuizen to move upfront alongside Ched Evans.
The Lilywhites started brightly, camped in the Tykes area in the opening five minutes, with a brace of corners and a long throw causing plenty of problems for the visitors in the first salvos of the game.
And a long ball from Iversen gave both Cunningham and Barkhuizen a chance to get behind the high Barnsley line, the former drilling a low cross from the left, that needed to be put behind for another corner, the third in the first six minutes.
But on the counter the Reds were also a threat and Conor Chaplin should have done better on nine minutes, after a break that saw Cauley Woodrow find the No.11 with a ball from the left-side of the area, his effort though sliced well wide of Daniel Iversen’s right post.
Yet another corner, this time a deep one from Ledson on the left, found both Andrew Hughes and Jordan Storey in space, but the latter’s header down was narrowly wide.
A big chance came on 28 minutes, as a Barkhuizen long throw from the left was headed up in the air and Sepp van den Berg reacted quickest to be in behind at a very tight angle, poking the ball on target, but Brad Collins made a fine save and then punched clear the team’s fifth corner of the half.
Finally, a goal came from the sixth corner of the day. Ledson’s ball in from the left was flicked on by Liam Lindsay, it came off the back of Ched Evans and Lindsay and Storey both pounced on the loose ball, with the No.14 the first to get a toe on it, firing hard and low past Collins with predatory instinct for his first of the season, with six minutes to go until half-time.
It was no more than they deserved at that point, having dominated the opening 40 minutes of the game.
Valerian Ismael made a triple change at the interval with Tony Sibbick, Carlton Morris and Jasper Moon on for Chaplin, Michael Solbauer and Romal Palmer as his Play-Off-qualified side looked to reverse the half-time deficit.
But it was North End who doubled their lead within five minutes of the interval. It was another set piece as Barkhuizen’s long throw from the left was flicked on by Storey and another finish inside the six-yard box by Evans, with his left foot, getting in front of Michal Helik, gave PNE the two-goal cushion their dominance deserved.
The visitors’ best spell came mid-way through the second half and Mads Andersen headed over a left-wing corner from skipper Alex Mowatt on 68 minutes, in a rare foray into the North End final third.
Their gung-ho approach threw men into the box and an effort from Andersen was superbly blocked by Cunningham to deny a goal being pulled back on 72 minutes, before a brace Mowatt corners from the right, Ledson scrambling away the second, before Iversen claimed the ball as it was delivered back into the penalty area.
Iversen again showed his shot-stopping prowess to made a great save to deny substitute Jasper Moon a goal back with five minutes left, a free kick on the left from Mowatt delivered right into the mixer, but the on loan Leicester City man was doing his best to try and deliver a fifth clean sheets in seven games and the ninth since his arrival in January.
A glorious chance to finish the game came with three minutes left as Evans got in behind the defence, closing down on Collins; he unselfishly pulled the ball back for sub Brad Potts – against his former club – but the No.44 couldn’t collect the ball and shoot and Barnsley were able to clear, but the four minutes of added time ran out as PNE ended their home campaign with another positive result.
PNE line-up: Iversen, van den Berg, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Cunningham, Ledson, Whiteman (Potts, 82), Browne (c), Evans (Bayliss, 90), Barkhuizen (Riis, 70). Subs not used: Hudson, Molumby, Huntington, Maguire, Sinclair, Gordon.
Barnsley line-up: Collins, Styles (Williams, 84), Andersen, Brittain, Woodrow (Odeboyejo, 64), Dike, Chaplin (Morris, 46), Palmer (Moon, 46), Solbauer (Sibbick, 46), Mowatt (c), Helik. Subs not used: Walton, Oduor, Halme, Thompson.
Referee: Mr M Donohue