It’s very rare that you watch a Preston North End game and a player takes the game into his own hands, and dominates the opposition so much that it leaves them on the ground.
That’s exactly what Tom Barkhuizen did on 11th March 2017 against Reading.
Having joined from Morecambe in that January, fans were expecting the winger to take a little time to adapt to the Championship. After a promising spell in League Two, Preston took advantage of Morecambe’s precarious financial situation to sign him, but he seemed like a project.
Barky had made his first start for the club a week earlier against Fulham and managed a consolation goal in that game. The following Tuesday he scored a late equaliser against Derby County, and so came his first start at Deepdale.
The home contingent had seen a few glimpses of his talent from the bench but it didn’t take him long against Reading to show what he was all about.
His first at Deepdale was a beautifully curled effort. His pace was electric that day, and caused the Royals problems throughout. The second goal of the game was scored by Daryl Horgan, but it all came from a sensational run from Barkhuizen, which started just outside his own area.
His pace and confidence that day got the North End fans up on their feet. His ability to just knock the ball ahead of himself and outsprint the opposition with ease was a joy to watch. He went on to score the third goal of the match as well, and it really was an outstanding individual performance.
His first goal won him goal of the month, and his displays in March 2017 won him player of the month as well. In his next game, he scored the opener at Ewood Park. It was a great way to announce himself on the scene.
Him and Aiden McGeady were on fire towards the end of that season. Jordan Hugill was becoming very influential as well, and Callum Robinson was improving all the time. It was an exciting squad in Simon Grayson’s last season. Ultimately results tailed off and they finished 11th.
Barkhuizen has been a regular in Alex Neil’s tenure but that Reading game still stands out as one of his best ever performances. He has still scored plenty of memorable goals since including ones against Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic, but everyone will remember that day against Reading.