Another poor performance saw Barnsley lose 2 – 0 at Preston.
In what has been a fantastic season for the reds, the last three performances are worrying ahead of the play-offs.
Preston netted either side of half-time from a corner and long throw. It was an even game overall but Barnsley will be disappointed with the goals they let in and their start to the second half while, having been confirmed in the play-offs, they lacked their usual intensity.
The Reds are now sixth in the table, with one match to play at home to Norwich City next Saturday. After Brentford and Swansea won but Bournemouth lost at Wycombe, Barnsley can no long finish third and would require a huge goal difference swing to claim fourth place, so they look likely to compete with Bournemouth for fifth or sixth. Not that where you finish actually means anything when it comes to the play-offs.
Valerien Ismael again made two changes from the side that beat Rotherham United a week earlier. Romal Palmer and Conor Chaplin came in for Aapo Halme and Carlton Morris. No surprises really as Morris came off with a knock towards the end of the Rotherham game and Ismael still seems to be searching for the ideal partner for Alex Mowatt in central midfield.
Chaplin should have opened the scoring in the ninth minute but, after Daryl Dike easily beat Jordan Storey to a long ball and Cauley Woodrow ran down the left side of the box then passed low, the unmarked Chaplin sliced badly wide of the bottom right corner from ten yards out. It was on his weaker right foot but he still should have done better.
The Reds then had a good spell of pressure without creating another chance but almost fell behind on 29 minutes when Tom Barkuizen’s long throw was flicked on to Sepp van den Berg whose five-yard shot on the left was blocked by the chest of Brad Collins who is now being called on to make saves as well as just sweep up behind his defence.
Dike then headed wide a difficult chance from 15 yards out after meeting a cross by Callum Brittain. Barnsley’s first shot on target arrived in the 36th minute when Dike flicked on Brittain’s long throw and Michal Helik’s overhead kick was caught by Daniel Iversen diving to his left.
Preston took the lead in the 39th minute when a right-wing corner appeared to be headed towards goal by a Barnsley man then, after ex-Red Liam Lindsay was denied, Storey fired in from close range.
It was no surprise to see Ismael made a triple change at the break, with Morris, Toby Sibbick, and Jasper Moon coming on for Chaplin, Palmer and Michael Sollbauer. Moon, a 20-year-old who usually plays in central defence and was making just his second Barnsley appearance, played in central midfield for the second half.
Despite the changes, Preston doubled their lead five minutes after the interval as a long throw was flicked on and Ched Evans nipped in between Collins and a defender to tap home.
Mads Andersen headed over a right-wing Alex Mowatt corner eight yards out midway through the second half. Then Dike looked certain to score after substitute Victor Adeboyejo’s bicycle kick from a Brittain cross fell to him six yards out but his shot was deflected wide.
Moon almost scored his first professional goal after a left-wing Mowatt free-kick dropped to him eight yards out but his low shot was straight at the goalkeeper.
Full time and a 2 – 0 defeat for the reds that in the grand scheme doesn’t really mean anything. The performance in this one and against Coventry and Rotherham are however a little but worrying heading in to the play-offs. Hopefully we can return to the form and intensity we will need for the play-offs.