PNE striker keen to get back on the goal trail

Joe Garner celebrates scoring against Fulham
Joe Garner celebrates scoring against Fulham
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It is a little more than three years ago that Joe Garner signed for Preston North End, joining the club he had supported as a youngster.

The first few months after his January 2013 free transfer switch from Watford were difficult in front of goal for the striker, with him only getting off the mark in his 18th appearance.

After his first North End goal, another eight games passed without him scoring.

That gave way to an 18-month scoring spree which saw him top the club’s goalscoring charts two seasons in a row.

But just at the moment, the goals have dried up and Garner finds himself on just three for the campaign.

A cause for concern? The answer is of course yes, goals being the main trade of a striker.

Has he gone hiding though? The answer to that one is a resounding ‘no’.

The 27-year-old is still in the heat of the battle on the forward line, making a real nuisance of himself and his play still comes with an edge to it.

He will never be popular with opposition defenders and managers, although his stock remains high with the Deepdale faithful, 
despite the current goal shortage.

Garner told the Evening Post: “I’ll keep plugging away for goals.

“I’ve hit the bar and post a few times this season so I’m getting into the positions, working hard.

“I’ll never hide away just because I’ve not scored as many goals as I would have liked to this season.

“It is all about the team and not about me personally.

“If it means other players scoring and me helping to set them up, I’ll take that.

“We are in quite a healthy position in the league and we are all working hard to get even higher in the division.”

Garner’s three goals came in a bit of a burst, two of them in successive matches.

He ended his drought against former employers Blackburn at Deepdale on November 21, dispatching a crisply-hit shot into the net from the edge of the box.

The following week at Fulham, Garner headed home at the far post from a well-worked corner routine.

On December 12, he hit the winner against Reading from the penalty spot.

Garner probably could not have come any closer to adding to his tally in PNE’s last game against Brentford.

A superb save from Bees keeper David Button pushed a second-half effort against the bar.

He also did get the ball in the net but an offside flag went up against team-mate Paul Huntington who had headed the ball into his path.

Said Garner: “The offside was tight, I’ve seen it back since and I think that one should have stood.

“It was a great save from their keeper, again I have watched it back and it gets better each time.

“Daniel Johnson hit a shot from the edge of the box and I managed to get a touch and change direction of it.

“I thought it was on the way in but somehow, the keeper got a hand to it and pushed the shot up against the bar – fair play to him.

“It could so easily have been 2-2, instead we went on to lose 3-1.

“The chances came in what was a good performance in the second half.

“In the first half we had been quite poor and we did improve from there.

“Maybe we deserved to take something from the game but it wasn’t to be.”

Garner and his Preston team-mates have had a few days to digest the Brentford defeat.

An early exit from the FA Cup meant a blank weekend but it is back to action on Tuesday night against Derby County at Pride Park.

Although the Rams’ league form has been poor of late, they are still very much in the promotion mix.

North End’s trip to the East Midlands is not one which should be taken with any sense of fear, according to Garner.

“I think we can go down there with confidence,” said the front man. “Derby are a good side, they might have been on a bit of a poor run in the league but they are up there for a reason.

“We have actually done very well against the teams in the top few places. Over Christmas we beat Hull here, while we went to Burnley and won at the start of December.

“We have drawn with Middlesbrough and Brighton, so that is not a bad record.

“Every team has a wobble at some stage, Middlesbrough have lost the last couple of games, while Brighton and Burnley have previously had a bad patch.

“So we won’t be taking much notice of Derby’s recent results.

“Earlier in the season, they beat us at Deepdale.

“They broke on us a couple of times for the goals in the first half.

“DJ scored near the end and I hit the post in that game, so perhaps we were a little bit unlucky.

“Hopefully , the little gap in between matches will help us do well.

“A few of the lads have had niggles and that extra few days might suit us.

“We have bounced back well from defeats before and it would be good to do that again at Derby.”

There will be a new face in the squad which travels to Derby, goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard (left) set for his debut after signing on loan from West Bromwich Albion for the rest of the season.

Lindegaard replaces Sam Johnstone who has gone back to Manchester United at the end of a 28-day loan.

Johnstone himself had been signed as replacement for Jordan Pickford, recalled by Sunderland part-way through his season’s loan.

Said Garner: “It is nice to work with Anders, he is a calm keeper and has plenty of experience.

“I’m sure he will fit in very well over the next few weeks and months.

“We have been fortunate to have had two very talented young keepers in Jordan and Sam. They will both go on to have very good careers at a high level.

“Jordan and Sam have different personalities but both fitted in really well.

“I would say that Jordan is very confident in his own ability and really bubbly around the place.

“Sam is a quieter lad and a very good shot-stopper.

“It has been good to have had them this season.

“With Jordan playing how he did, it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Sunderland asked for him back.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see both of them play for England one day.”