Fine start is music to ears of PNE’s very own DJ

Daniel Johnson is hoping to notch his first goal of the season against Ipswich Town
Daniel Johnson is hoping to notch his first goal of the season against Ipswich Town
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DANIEL Johnson believes his first goal in the Championship for Preston North End is just around the corner.

The midfielder has looked comfortable in the opening couple of weeks of the season with North End, as a whole, adapting well to life in the second tier of English football.

Johnson has been a fixture in the middle of the park for all of the league matches, with the team collecting a very creditable five points from their first three games.

The former Aston Villa man – who signed for PNE in January – caught the eye during the previous campaign, especially with his ability to score from distance with his sweet left foot.

He hit eight goals in 23 appearances – an excellent return – as North End sealed promotion from League One via the play-offs.

And judging by his performances so far this term, the signs are that he can do something similar in the higher division.

Johnson, in particular, went agonisingly close to scoring twice against MK Dons on Saturday.

Both chances were virtually identical as the 22-year-old broke quickly from midfield to support the strikers and fired two left-footed shots which arrowed across the keeper but narrowly wide of the far post.

Johnson admits he was disappointed to not find the bottom corner with at least one of those efforts.

But he believes further chances will fall his way especially as a major part of his role is to get forward and help out in attack.

“I think it’s not just me who gets forward from midfield – Paul Gallagher and John Welsh also 
get forward too.

“But many times I will be the one to get forward.

“I like to get into areas of the pitch that’s where I think I can show my qualities more.

“The chances on Saturday were what they were.

“I felt I should have hit the target, especially with the second one.

“The chances will come – I probably will not get as many opportunities as I did last season.

“So I need to make sure I take my chances when I get them in this campaign.”

Johnson says the squad has drawn a huge amount of confidence from the way they have coped so far with the challenges the Championship has thrown at them.

They are the only team left in the division who have not conceded a goal this season, although they have only managed one goal themselves at the other end of the pitch.

Johnson accepts that there are still a lot of improvements needed – especially in the opposition’s final third.

“There’s a lot of improvements needed by us all around the pitch,” Johnson said.

“But you have remember there’s a few new players and we are all getting to know each other, but that will pick up as the season progressed. We are not really looking at it as a negative that we have only scored one goal.

“I think that is one area which will pick up as we go along.

“Hopefully, we will carry on keeping clean sheets and start scoring a few more goals.

“I think we are a team that make it hard for teams to beat us and hard to break down.

“That is something we work on a lot in training.

“But I think if anybody had said to us before the season started that we would have kept three clean sheets in the league and got five points on the board, I think we would have been happy with that.

“You can tell there is a difference between the Championship and League One but I would not say there’s a major difference, it’s just little details.

“The players are a lot sharper and there’s more quality .

“But we have lot more games and teams to play so we’ll find out more as the season progresses.

“You definitely need to be more focused in your own final third because there are better and sharper players than you 
would come up against in League One, no disrespect. But overall it’s been a really good start for 
us.”

Saturday’s opponents Ipswich Town arrive at Deepdale on top of the Championship after winning two and drawing one of their first three games.

They are a club with past experience of playing in the Premier League and are making a concerted effort to return there once more.

Mick McCarthy’s men finished in the play-offs last season , 
where they were beaten by derby rivals Norwich City in the semi-final.

Johnson knows they will provide a stern test, but a win over the Tractor Boys at Deepdale will hand he and his team-mates a massive confidence boost for the rest of the season.

“We want to try to win every game – that might not happen – but we go into every game with that winning mentality.

“We know that Ipswich are a very big team and we know how well they did last season. Going off the games this season already, we know that they are going to be strong.

“Sometimes they will pass, sometimes they will go direct.

“But we are looking forward to it and with the home advantage – hopefully the crowd will get behind us and that will help us a lot.”