Barnsley 2 Preston North End 1 - Resilient Barnsley on cusp of Championship play-off race

There is a resilience about this Barnsley team, borne out of their remarkable escape from relegation in the summer, and now prevalent in the depths of winter as they climb into the top half of the Championship.

Victor Adeboyejo scores Barnsley's second goal past Declan Rudd. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Forty-four games into the coronavirus-lengthened 2019-20 season, Barnsley were dead and buried, heading back to League One at the first attempt.

But then came those two remarkable late goals that sunk Nottingham Forest and Brentford.

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The architect of that survival was the passionate Gerhard Struber, but now departed to the more attractive surrounds of New York, the foundations he left are being rapidly built on by Valerian Ismael.

Callum Styles and Ton Barkhuizen challenge for a high ball. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

This was an eighth win in 12 games since the Frenchman took over in late October, an astonishing run of form that has encompassed a quarter of the season and taken Barnsley from the beginnings of another relegation fight to the cusp of the play-off race. Barnsley sit ninth after a third straight win, four points shy of the top six.

This is the Championship, though, a relentless treadmill of Saturday-Tuesday games when poor form becomes entrenched and confidence is infectious.

Barnsley wish they could play every day, but will have to settle for every three or four.

Their belief is embodied in the manner in which they respond to setbacks. Against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Saturday, the reaction to going behind early on was swift, and by the break they led.

Barnsley have won eight out of 12 under Ismael (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Against Preston it took a little longer to respond to Sean Maguire’s second-minute header but the outcome was the same.

From the minute Alex Mowatt swept home a fine curling effort from the edge of the area on 53 minutes there was only going to be one winner; substitute Victor Adeboyejo confirming that for the Reds 10 minutes from time.

Preston led after less than two minutes, an unmarked Maguire stooping at the back post to head the ball over the line after Cauley Woodrow inadvertently flicked Paul Gallagher’s left-wing corner on at the near post.

Jack Walton got down to block but Maguire had been so close the ball was a foot over the line, despite the Barnsley protests

It was a jolt to Barnsley, more than a shock to the system, and it took them a while to get a hold of the game, but when they did through Mowatt in the middle and Callum Styles down the left, proceedings danced to the beat of Barnsley’s drum.

Callum Brittain stung Declan Rudd’s palms with a cross-shot and Michael Sollbauer should have done better with a free header from the resulting corner.

Styles was a dangerous outlet down the left and when he ghosted in at the back post to meet Conor Chaplin’s dinked centre, his cushioned lob was a touch too heavy and sailed over the bar, an outcome he greeted by booting the advertising boards.

At the other end, Preston were resorting to balls over the top which forced Walton on two occasions to dash out of his area in the sweeper-keeper role to head the danger clear.

However, as well as Preston started the half, they should have finished it with similar ruthlessness when Emil Riis raced through.

With Daniel Johnson to his right and only Brittain to beat, he chose to go alone, Brittain holding position well to force the Dane to shoot tamely at Walton.

Save for a couple of neat touches in build-up play, top scorer Cauley Woodrow had been quiet in the first half.

But a ball over the top from Mads Andersen shortly after the restart livened him up and his fierce shot on the angle struck the side-netting.

It was the wake-up call Barnsley needed and on 53 minutes they were level.

The move initially started down the right but when it was swept left, Mowatt and Styles had time and space to fashion an opportunity.

Mowatt played the ball to Styles on the left and when he received the return pass the captain caressed a beautiful curling shot in off the post from 20 yards.

Barnsley were buoyant now but still had to be wary, Josh Earl finding space on the left shortly before the hour to hit a deflected shot that Walton was fortunate to save with his legs, Earl then blasting the rebound over.

Adeboyejo would not be so profligate, calmly stroking the ball home just inside the angle of the area and the assured Reds saw out the game with little concern.

Going a goal down to seasoned Championship operators was the type of game Barnsley would have lost in the past. Not these days.

Barnsley: Walton; Brittain, Solbauer, Helik, Andersen; Styles, James (Kane 78), Mowatt, Frieser (Adeboyejo 60); Woodrow, Chaplin (Thomas 60). Unused substitutes: Schmidt, Palmer, Odour, Miller, Moon, Collins.

Preston: Rudd; Fisher, Davies, Hughes; Earl, Browne, Johnson, Gallagher (Bayliss 78), Barkhuizen (Stockley 72); Riis (Sinclair 67), Maguire (Rafferty 67). Unused substitutes: Harrop, Storey, Huntington, Ripley, O’Reilly.

Referee: D Whitehouse (Northampton).