Joe Garner has described his wonder goal in Preston North End’s play-off clash with Rotherham as being ‘up there with my best’ but will settle for a tap-in next time if it helps push them closer to promotion.
The Lilywhites hotshot was the talk of football on Saturday as his stunning strike earned PNE a 1-1 draw against the Millers in the semi-final first leg at Deepdale.
Garner controlled a Tom Clarke pass on his chest, flicked it across marker Kari Arnason before crashing a right-foot volley from 20 yards into the net.
It had the vast majority of a bumper 17,221 crowd on its feet, the timing significant with it coming three minutes into the second half after a poor North End showing in the opening period.
For Garner, it was his 24th goal of a fine campaign which has already seen him voted by supporters and team-mates alike as their player of the year.
Had Saturday’s strike come a couple of weeks earlier, he would surely have been carrying off PNE’s goal of the season too.
Garner said: “We needed that goal, it gave us a lift and got the fans up.
“I knew as soon as it came off my foot that it was going in.
“It just sat up nicely and was there to be hit – and that is exactly what I did.
“I would say it was up there with the best goals I have scored, it was nice.
“We now have an important game at their place on Thursday night.
“If it meant going through, a tap-in there would be very nice, I would take that.”
Preston boss Simon Grayson hailed the quality of Garner’s volley as goal of the season material, and hopes there is more to come yet from the 26-year-old’s boots.
Grayson said: “Joe had not scored for a couple of games but obviously the 20-odd goals which he has got just shows what he is capable of doing.
“If that goal was to grace the Premier League then they would be talking about it as goal of the month, even goal of the season.
“That was a top-drawer effort from him and it got us back into the game.
“It probably had to be something special to get us back into the game because we didn’t really create enough chances in open play.”
Garner admitted that him and his PNE team-mates had struggled to get to grips with their Rotherham counterparts in the first half.
It is now a case of winner takes all in the return leg at the New York Stadium, with the away goal rule no longer used in play-off matches.
“We are confident that we can go to Rotherham, get a result and hopefully get to where we want to be,” said Garner.
“Rotherham came here with a game plan, they sat deep and we found it hard in the first half to get behind them.
“They have some big boys in their team, they get it long and have second runners.
“But with them being the home side on Thursday they will have to come out and I think there will be a lot more space behind them.
“It was great to see the fans come out at Deepdale and we will take a good following to their ground.”