Garner eyeing PNE derby date

PNE striker Joe Garner is available to face his former club Blackburn on April 2
PNE striker Joe Garner is available to face his former club Blackburn on April 2
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Free from suspension, Joe Garner is looking forward to Preston North End’s visit to his former club Blackburn.

The Lancashire derby at Ewood Park a week on Saturday is the first game back after the international break.

For Garner, the game gives him the chance to play at Ewood for the first time as a visiting player.

If selected, it will also be the 27-year-old’s first slice of action for nearly a month.

Garner came through the ranks at Blackburn but did not make it as far as the first team.

He left to join Carlisle on loan and then made a permanent move to Cumbria in a £140,000 deal.

In November, Garner found the net against Rovers in the reverse fixture at Deepdale.

It proved only a consolation though, with the visitors securing a 2-1 win.

So there will be an element of revenge on PNE’s mind as they head to East Lancashire on April 2.

“I have played Blackburn a few times since I left but I have never played at Ewood Park,” said Garner.

“I am looking forward to going back there and hopefully we can come away with the three points.

“I will have a lot of friends there and we will be doing everything we can to win.”

Suspension forced Garner to sit out the games against Bolton and Queens Park Rangers.

He was hit with a two-game ban for collecting 10 yellow cards – narrowly missing the FA’s amnesty.

With the international break coming after the ban, his time in the sidelines has been a lengthy one.

Said Garner: “The last couple of weeks have been long but the suspension is over and I am just looking to get back in and helping the lads out.”

It was Garner’s third ban of the season, following on from a one-match ban he got for five bookings and then three games after his red card against Wolves in September.

Garner is not the only PNE player with Blackburn connections who will be heading back to Ewood.

Paul Gallagher played 74 games for Rovers after joining them as a youngster.

On the North End coaching staff, manager Simon Grayson and goalkeeper coach Alan Kelly both had spells as players with Rovers – they actually signed on the same day in July 1999.

Garner’s return to action will bolster selection options up front for Grayson.

Jordan Hugill started the two games in his absence, scoring the first league goal of his career at Bolton.

There was a return last week for Jermaine Beckford too, the front man having been out of action for more than six months.

Eoin Doyle has also scored twice in the last two games from the bench to press his claims for a start.

Whether Beckford will be ready to start a game yet after such a long absence, remains to be seen.

However, just having him back available in the squad has been a big boost.

His pace and scoring instinct has been missed this season, even though North End have performed so strongly and go into the Rovers game in a healthy 10th place.