Dave Seddon’s PNE press view

Daniel Johnson has scored in the last two games

Daniel Johnson has scored in the last two games

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January 23, February 2 and February 3 – a slight variation on Jose Mourinho’s minute rant – but are these the key dates behind a return to form for Preston North End?

Four wins on the bounce going into the Oldham game today and a running close of Manchester United, suggests they might well be.

On January 23, PNE signed Daniel Johnson from Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee, now known to be £50,000.

February 2, with just a few hours of the transfer window left, saw more business done with Villa.

This time it was to bring Callum Robinson back to Deepdale on a youth loan after the premature end to his first spell in November.

As for February 3, at about 9.25pm Joe Garner stepped on to the pitch at Bramall Lane for his first slice of action for 10 weeks.

Three dates, three players, a trio who have arguably made a significant difference to North End’s fortunes over the past month.

Two goals in two games from Johnson have helped deliver wins over Scunthorpe and Walsall this week.

Robinson added a different dimension to PNE’s play in those same two games, most notably so against Scunthorpe.

Then there is Garner, now six games – four starts and two substitute appearances – into his comeback after having a detached tendon spot-welded back to his shin bone.

His mere presence in the squad at Sheffield United gave such a huge lift to team-mates and supporters alike.

And spirits almost went into orbit when the flame-haired one scored twice in his first start against Chesterfield.

We are told that Garner is not quite fully up to speed yet in terms of match sharpness.

He has snatched at one or two chances of late but what about his pass which played in Chris Humphrey to set up Johnson’s winner on Tuesday?

If this is Garner at 90%, just think what could come when he is fully razor sharp.

How Preston would have fared in these last few games without Garner, Johnson and Robinson, one can only speculate.

It is fair comment that they are a much more potent unit with them, the attacking threat having gone up more than a notch or two.

We know what Garner is all about – scoring goals, annoying defenders and single-handedly raising the popularity of red hair in PR postcodes.

Johnson’s two goals are early pointers that he can time an arrival in the penalty box from a deeper starting point.

Both saw him running on to pull-backs from Robinson and Humphrey without having to alter his stride.

Goals have generally been in short supply from central midfield so more of the same from Johnson in the coming weeks would be most welcome.

Robinson offers the threat of pace and directness from what you would best describe as a wide striker role.

He is not a winger as such, for example in the Humphrey or Kyel Reid mould.

Instead, Robinson likes to get the ball in slightly narrower positions and go from there.

His assist for Johnson in the Scunthorpe game came from the left-hand side of the box and it was from over that way that he shot to set in motion Paul Gallagher’s clincher.

Three men do not make a side, however the return or additions of Garner, Johnson and Robinson have been most welcome ones.

Consistency from them and their PNE team-mates might hopefully tempt one or two more fans back through the turnstiles.

The 7,779 attendance for Walsall’s visit was the second lowest of the season.

Some of the stay-aways cite a shortage of attacking play as the reason for not coming.

Finance is a big issue for many with games coming thick and fast at present – Walsall was a sixth successive midweek game with a seventh to come against Doncaster next week.

Others were drawn to the television on Tuesday night to watch Manchester City take on Barcelona.

With some City fans finding it difficult to take to the Champions League, quite why it appeals to so many in these parts, I’m not sure.

Finally, on this last day of February allow me to go retro and remember three key games played on this date in years gone by.

In 1981, Peter Litchfield made a blinding debut between the posts as PNE beat Chelsea 1-0.

Wind the clock to 1987 and who inside Deepdale that afternoon can forget Frank Worthington’s exquisite chip against Wolves?

Finally in 1998, David Moyes enjoyed his first league win as a manager as Preston beat Bournemouth 2-0.