Robins switch was best for former PNE youngster

Former PNE midfielder Josh Brownhill will be in the Bristol City squad this weekend
Former PNE midfielder Josh Brownhill will be in the Bristol City squad this weekend
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Josh Brownhill swapped Deepdale for Ashton Gate in the summer and will meet up with his former team-mates when Bristol City host Preston this weekend.

He was arguably the stellar product of PNE’s youth system in recent seasons, signed as a 15-year-old after Manchester United released him.

Brownhill made his debut in the first-team at 17, going on to make 64 appearances in a North End shirt.

When he dropped down the pecking order last season, he went on loan to Barnsley in January.

At the time, Lee Johnson was manager of the Tykes but left shortly afterwards to take the Birstol City job.

But in the few weeks that he worked with Brownhill, Johnson saw enough to want to take him to Ashton Gate in the summer.

North End offered him a new contract but he turned that down, with City paying training compensation for him.

Brownhill, who turns 21 on Monday, has made seven starts and three appearances from the bench for the Robins.

That is maybe not quite as much football as he hoped but time is on his side.

PNE boss Simon Grayson, who gave Brownhill his debut, said: “I enjoyed working with Josh, he’s a great lad and a good footballer.

“Josh made the decision that he wanted to leave and we got compensation for him.

“He felt that was the right opportunity for him, we tried to keep him but it wasn’t to be.

“It will be nice to see him on Saturday and I wish him well for the future – after they have played us.”

The Robins’ form has hit the buffers of late after a good start to the season and a strong run in September.

They have lost five out of the last six matches, the win in the midst of that being a 2-0 victory over Ipswich.

Grayson watched their 1-0 home defeat to Brentford on Tuesday night, a game they were by all accounts unlucky to lose.

City head coach Johnson said: “On another day, we could have scored two or three goals minimum and won.

“The game hinged on us not taking our chances and that is the message that needs to be delivered.

“We rediscovered our identity but we didn’t take our chances.

“I thought we played some good football and it was very open.

“We’ve got to stay strong as a playing group and as a club.

“We’ve seen teams who can go on runs – we’re on a bad run at the moment, we have to accept that and find a way of coming through it.

“I don’t think we should be negative about the display the other night because I think there were a lot of good things and I felt we got our identity back a little bit.”

The Robins are set to be without first-choice keeper Frank Fielding against PNE.

He was injured in the first half in the Brentford game and was replaced by Ivan Luic who came on for his league debut.

Luic, 21, joined them from Bayern Munich in July and the Austrian is likely to get the nod to start ahead of the more experienced Richard O’Donnell.

Gary O’Neil, the ex-West Ham and Middlesbrough midfielder is also sidelined, having suffered a hamstring injury at Huddersfield last week. Leading scorer at City is Tammy Abraham, the young striker who is on loan from Chelsea, having bagged 10 goals in the Championship and three more in the League Cup.