BARNSLEY’S wait for a win on the road – and Poya Asbaghi’s for a first at the helm – stretches on as they were beaten by Preston North End.
This dreary afternoon clash means Barnsley are now on their longest wait for a first away win in a season since 2001/2002 – when they were ejected from the former First Division after just 11 wins, two of which were on the road.
Daniel Johnson fired a warning shot across the Reds’ bow just over a minute in, combining with Josh Earl and scooping a left-footed shot over Brad Collins’ goal towards the away fans who were in high spirits despite their side’s dire league position.
Johnson was the provider for the Lilywhites’ opener, finding captain Alan Browne in yards of space on the right and giving him the relatively straightforward task of finding the net from ten yards at Brad Collins’ near post 57 minutes in.
The midfielder then cancelled out Cauley Woodrow’s equaliser as he converted from a set piece taken on the left, his low left-footed effort from substitute Ryan Ledson’s delivery finding its way through to Brad Collins’ goal with 12 minutes left on the clock.
The hosts’ wing-backs played on the outer edges of the pitch as they looked to stretch a Reds back three that has now shipped 34 league goals – the side regularly looking to release Emil Riis and Sean Maguire with high balls through the middle.
Barnsley fielded a compact front three which saw the return of Clarke Oduor for his first start under Poya Asbaghi, and his first appearance since a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in October.
Oduor took up an inside-right position, Carlton Morris on the left, with Woodrow – who’s had to battle criticism for his poor form in recent weeks – the focal point.
There was a touch of good fortune to Woodrow’s equaliser, his fourth goal of the campaign, as Callum Brittain teed up what looked like a shot from the edge of the box – but the striker showed excellent reactions to get his head to the ball before anyone else.
But the first chance of a half in which Barnsley looked unspectacular fell to Liam Kitching who, taking advantage of a lucky deflection to play a one-two off his man, advanced into the box and shot high and wide.
Asbaghi has said he wants his side to play more attacking football, but with a first four fixtures in the dugout producing two losses and two draws, he can at least point to a somewhat more solid and disciplined shape off the ball as something of a positive.
A couple of minutes later Morris’ header hit the bar from Woodrow’s in-swinging delivery from the left after his initial corner was repelled.
Woodrow then had a headed chance of his own but saw his effort sail over the bar after some good work from Claudio Gomes on the left to work a cross into the box.
Andrew Hughes headed wide of Collins’ left post for Preston 25 minutes in, and Sean Maguire did the same a minute later.
The home side produced a flowing move a couple of minutes from the half-hour mark, but it broke down before Riis and Alan Browne could move out of each other’s way and the latter’s effort was blocked.
Michal Helik, playing on the right of a back three, produced a fine block to stop Maguire’s effort 32 minutes in and followed it up with another good piece of defending when the forward tried to play the ball in.
The first half petered out to a poor conclusion as the rain continued to pour.
Morris had a half chance as he was released down the left by Gomes’ nicely weighted pass, but the forward lifted an aimless ball in, then he almost found Oduor in the middle after picking up on a fine lofted ball down the line from Callum Styles a minute from half-time.
The Reds had the better of exchanges early in the second half, Oduor seeing his low strike saved then Woodrow producing a swerving long-range effort that snuck past the far post from the left.
But after the hosts’ strike for the first goal of Ryan Lowe’s tenure, the Reds looked immediately more frantic and several players surrounded referee Keith Stroud around an hour in when Morris looked to be tripped by Sepp Van Den Berg on the left of goal.
Preston’s second goal visibly took the wind out of Barnsley’s sails, and the introduction of Aaron Leya Iseka for Oduor then, later, Woodrow and Styles making way for Victor Adeboyejo and Josh Benson, did little to spark anything as the hosts took control of the latter stages of the game.