DJ’s a big hit with PNE team-mate

Scott Laird (left) has praised team-mate Daniel Johnson (far right)
Scott Laird (left) has praised team-mate Daniel Johnson (far right)
  • Johnson’s goals invaluable from midfield
  • Ex-Villa man is a ‘good egg’
  • £50,000 signing a bargain
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Scott Laird has praised the quality and attitude Daniel Johnson has brought to Preston since his £50,000 bargain purchase from Aston Villa.

Johnson, 22, netted his sixth PNE goal in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Fleetwood.

Credit to the gaffer for bringing in another lad who is not a bad egg – he has fitted in straight away

It was another quality finish, the midfielder curling a shot beyond the reach of Town keeper Chris Maxwell from outside the box.

His displays and eye for goal have impressed team-mate Laird, with Johnson’s quality in training also catching the attention.

Laird told the Evening Post: “DJ has been brilliant, not just on the pitch in a match but in training too.

“He has brought in that added quality which has meant everyone has had to raise their game to keep up with him.

“He’s a very good talent, a very good lad too.

“Credit to the gaffer for bringing in another lad who is not a bad egg – he has fitted in straight away.

“DJ gets on with everyone and you can see how much his quality has added to our side in the last couple of months.

“He is going to help us a lot before the end of the season.

“I thought he showed his defensive quality too in the last few minutes at Fleetwood, when I gave the ball away on the edge of Fleetwood’s box.

“I didn’t think Calum Woods had anyone on him but they nicked it and broke on the counter.

“DJ did really well to hold the two players up, he put himself in a good position to delay the lad on the ball and gave us enough time for myself to get back and put the tackle in.”

Johnson’s one-in-two goal ratio has been a massive lift for North End, who lacked a scoring threat from the centre of midfield until his January arrival.

Against Fleetwood, Laird operated in a left wing-back role as Preston reverted to a 3-5-2 system. It is a position the 26-year-old is comfortable in, although the job is a demanding one.

Said Laird: “Playing wing-back means I get forward, which is part of the game I really enjoy.

“There’s a lot of work because you are pushing forward and tracking back – effectively you have the whole of that side of the pitch to cover.

“I like the challenge. You are looking to play games with the other team almost, with the fact you are trying to drop into pockets of space.

“Fleetwood made it tough for me in the second half by changing formation and putting two players down my side.”

One of the key incidents from the Fleetwood game was the head injury which Paul Huntington suffered in the second half.

The central defender was down on the turf for eight minutes before being carried off on a stretcher with his neck in a brace and wearing an oxygen mask.

Huntington, who has enjoyed an unbroken five-month run in the team, was later able to travel home with the rest of the PNE squad.

Over the coming days he will be assessed to see whether he is fit for PNE’s Easter games against Rochdale at Deepdale on Good Friday and away to Bradford next Monday.

Said Laird: “It was not nice seeing one of your mates in that condition.

“He is someone you train with every day. Hunts is a good friend and for a while it didn’t look good.

“Thankfully he seemed all right in the dressing room after the game and I’m sure he will be okay.

“We cannot use his injury as an excuse for conceding the goal when we did.

“After a stoppage in play it is the same for both sides and you have to maintain your concentration levels.”

One of the medical team who treated Huntington on the pitch was Dr Jonathan Tobin, Fleetwood’s club doctor.

Dr Tobin previously worked at North End before moving on to Bolton Wanderers.

He was Bolton’s team doctor when midfielder Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch in an FA Cup tie at Tottenham, Dr Tobin working with three other medical staff to save Muamba’s life.