Sam aims to keep it clean

PNE goalkeeper Sam Johnstone will be in action in Sunday's clash  with Fleetwood at Highbury
PNE goalkeeper Sam Johnstone will be in action in Sunday's clash with Fleetwood at Highbury
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Sam Johnstone will be looking to be at his squeaky-clean best when Preston North End make the short trip to Fleetwood on Sunday.

Like any goalkeeper, Johnstone prides himself on clean sheets and seven to date in his 13 games for PNE is a decent statistic.

When the ball does hit the back of his net, it clearly annoys the 22-year-old – which is evident from his analysis of last week’s 1-1 draw at Barnsley.

He was 11 minutes away from another shut-out when the Tykes scored their equaliser.

“I really thought that we were going to keep them out,” Johnstone told the Evening Post.

“The lads in front of me defended well – the nearest Barnsley had come to scoring was a shot which hit the outside of the post early in the first half.

“So to concede quite late on was frustrating and it is something we’ve looked at this week.

“We have won eight and drawn two of the last 10 games but that could have been nine wins, so the Barnsley game was disappointing.

“Now we have got a local derby at Fleetwood to look forward to.

“It is on television, our form is good, they are going well, so it should be a decent game.

“All the lads are buzzing about the game and it has been a good week building up.

“Hopefully we take a positive result from the game and can move on.

“I’ve seen a little bit of Fleetwood this season – they like to pass the ball and have done well this season.

“They are one of the sides fighting to get into the play-offs. We are looking to take second place, so there is loads for both sides to play for.

“We will have a good following of supporters there – you saw how many we took to Barnsley and that was great.

“Hopefully we can send the fans home happy with a win.”

Johnstone is well settled at North End after January’s loan move from Manchester United.

The first few weeks of his time at Deepdale saw him swapping the gloves with Thorsten Stuckmann.

With Johnstone cup-tied for both the FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, it was a case of him playing the league games and Stuckmann the cup clashes.

Things are more settled now, Sunday’s trip to Highbury Stadium (2.15pm) set to be his ninth start in a row. He is the third keeper used by PNE at first-team level this term.

Jamie Jones started off as 
first choice between the sticks after his summer move from Leyton Orient.

He was displaced by Stuckmann in November, who had an unbroken run of games until Johnstone’s arrival in the New Year.

Jones is now out on loan with Rochdale having had a spell at Coventry City.

“When I first came there was a lot of changing around because I could not play in the two cup competitions which Preston were still in,” said Johnstone.

“Now we just have the league to concentrate on and our focus is on trying to get automatic promotion.

“Getting second place is in our own hands and hopefully it will stay that way all the way through.

“If we keep winning matches and doing the right things, we can achieve what we want to.”

Johnstone’s time on loan here and at Doncaster before that, is to build up some first-team experience.

At United, he has David de Gea, Victor Valdes and Anders Lindegaard ahead of him in the goalkeeper pecking order.

Throw Ben Amos, currently on loan at Bolton, into the equation, and competition is stern to say the least – something only to be expected at a leading Premier League club.

A permanent move away from Old Trafford in the summer has been mooted for the Leyland lad but that will take care of itself once the season is finished.

When United recalled Johnstone from Doncaster to send him to North End, Donny boss Paul Dickov hinted that PNE were already in negotiations with the Red Devils.

Naturally for someone who has been on United’s books since he was at primary school, Johnstone keeps a close eye on events at United.

And he will always be grateful for the experience he picked up training alongside the senior United keepers at Carrington.

Said Johnstone: “United are going well at the moment –they’ve had two great wins over Tottenham and Liverpool.

“Before going out on loan, I would train every day with the first-team keepers.

“I worked with David de Gea, and Anders Lindegaard last season and this season, Edwin van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak before that.

“De Gea has been outstanding this season, showing what a 
top-class keeper he is.

“Some of his performances have been massive and he is getting the acclaim he deserves.

“He played well last season too and has grown into the club.

“When De Gea first joined, people would ask me what he was like and how he was doing. From the first time I met him, he was great with me, what he did in training was excellent.

“I think people forget that he was only 21 when he signed for United. That is young for a goalkeeper at such a big club, he was coming from a different country and a different league.”