PNE striker plans old pals’ axe

Garner was a Forest player for three years
Garner was a Forest player for three years
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Preston North End’s home clash with Nottingham Forest would be the ideal occasion for Joe Garner to break this season’s scoring duck.

Garner was a Forest player for three years, moving there from Carlisle in a £1.1m deal.

Although they twice loaned him out during his time at the City Ground, the striker insists he enjoyed his time there.

The chance to put one over his former club will appeal though, and he really needs a goal to get his season going.

Eleven appearances in the Championship have yet to yield a Garner goal.

He is not alone in being on a barren run, with none of the Preston front men yet to find the net in league action.

Now into November, that is a statistic which must change soon.

It was in July 2008 when Garner – then a 20-year-old – joined Forest.

He started 34 league games for them, coming off the bench a further 14 times.

Garner scored 10 goals in Forest colours, nine of those coming in the Championship.

“I made a lot of good friends at Forest and really enjoyed my time there,” said Garner.

“It is always nice to beat your mates and hopefully we can pick up three points.

“Colin Calderwood was the manager who signed me at Forest. He was there for the next couple of months, before Billy Davies came in and did really well.

“I played out on the right quite a lot for them, rather than being up front.

“We reached the play-offs twice but lost to Blackpool and Swansea.

“They are a massive club with big support and a great history.”

PNE face Forest on the back of a four-game unbeaten run, and have not conceded a goal in that time.

There have been three 0-0 draws during the run, together with the 3-0 victory at Charlton a fortnight ago.

Much scrutiny is on the poor return in front of goal. North End’s 10 league goals in 14 games is the joint lowest return in the Championship together with Bolton.

Garner accepts that the pressure is on him and his fellow strikers to deliver.

“We are working hard to get ourselves scoring again,” said the 27-year-old.

“It is our job to score goals and we are comfortable with that pressure as a group of strikers.

“I’m confident that I will start scoring because of the players around me who provide the service.

“Paul Gallagher and Daniel Johnson are very creative lads and I know that my chances will come.

“Things have been a bit disrupted this season with Gally being injured and my suspension.

“But that is no excuse – things like that are part and parcel of a season in football.

“There have been chances to score – I’ve hit the woodwork and had shots saved.

“If I keep working hard, I’m sure something will drop for me and I can get going. I’m confident I can score goals at this level and hopefully a goal can come very soon.”

For all his goals in the last two seasons, a barren run is nothing new for Garner.

After joining Preston from Watford in January 2013, he did not find the net until August of that year.

There then followed another two-and-a-half months without a goa,l before they started to flow regularly. His header against Tranmere on November 2, 2013, sparked a run of 50 goals in less than two seasons.

If North End can add goals to their solid defensive displays, their climb up the table will accelerate.

Said Garner: “This is a very tough league and we knew that, coming into it in the summer. As a club we are adapting to the Championship.

“It has taken a little while but we have slowly been pushing up the league with the four-game unbeaten run we are currently on.

“The defence looks strong at the moment and we will try and take this good run through to the international break.”

Garner came back into the starting XI against Bolton on Saturday to partner Eoin Doyle up front.

It might be that the pair get a second run against Forest as PNE manager Simon Grayson attempts to put together a settled partnership.

Jordan Hugill, Stevie May and Will Keane are the other choices, Hugill having come on in the second half of the Bolton clash.

Garner said: “The gaffer brought in a couple of new faces the other month and we are all fighting for a place.

“To have competition like that is always healthy and hopefully that will start to show on the pitch soon.”