Preston hammer Barnsley to go third
North End are one point off the top.
Daniel Johnson produced an outstanding performance as Preston moved up to third in the Championship with a 5-1 thrashing of Barnsley at Deepdale.
Johnson scored two and claimed two assists as the hosts shrugged off a first-half equaliser from Cameron McGeehan with a second-half display that had all the hallmarks of a side bang in form.
Tom Barkhuizen, Ben Pearson and Josh Harrop were also on target for North End.
With neat possession the order of the day, Preston began the long process of breaking down the stubborn Barnsley defence, with Johnson pulling the strings in midfield straight from the off.
After eight minutes, the Jamaican dribbled his way into the penalty area before shooting fiercely at Brad Collins who parried to Sean Maguire, who fluffed the rebound.
Ten minutes later Maguire wasted an even better chance when Johnson’s low cross found him in space 12 yards out, but Collins saved the shot with his feet.
A Joe Rafferty cross was headed over by the returning David Nugent and there was an inevitability about North End’s opener.
Nugent’s pass found Barkhuizen whose shot was parried up into the air by Collins with Johnson following up to loop in a header.
With the visitors’ defence rocking, it felt like the beginning of the end for them and Preston should have doubled their lead when Johnson’s cross from the left was met by Maguire, who side-footed straight at Collins.
Instead Barnsley improbably went into the break on level terms after a deep corner from the left found Conor Chaplin lurking at the back post with McGeehan profiting from the former Portsmouth striker’s knock down.
McGeehan’s goal was Barnsley’s first in the league away from Oakwell this season and it was with a new found confidence that the Tykes approached the second half.
This was Johnson’s day, however, and five minutes into the half he snuffed out the revival as he broke down the left before squaring to Barkhuizen who had the freedom of Deepdale to take a touch and slot past Collins.
From then on it was one-way traffic. With an hour gone it was Johnson again who ran onto a ball over the top from Paul Gallagher before the cutest of finishes extended Preston’s lead.
Three minutes later and with the floodgates well and truly open, Barkhuizen stretched his legs down the left and rolled a pinpoint ball across the area which was met by Pearson at the back stick.
A miserable afternoon for Barnsley was sealed when Johnson’s harrying saw the ball break to substitute Harrop who lifted the ball over Collins and chased it over the line.