Johnson targets more of same from PNE at Rotherham

Daniel Johnson insists Rotherham will be treated the same as any of the Championship big boys.

Thursday, 3rd November 2016, 6:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:51 pm
Daniel Johnson (left) is congratulated on his goal at Birmingham

Preston North End head to the New York Stadium looking to cap a fine run of results between international breaks that has seen them take 10 points from the 15 available in October.

Simon Grayson’s have taken on the second tier’s top four - Newcastle, Brighton, Norwich and Huddersfield - as well as relegated Aston Villa.

Now it looks to be a different kind of test this Saturday as they travel to face a Millers side six points adrift at the bottom of the table.

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The have however changed managers, Kenny Jackett looking for his first win in his third game in charge having replaced Alan Stubbs who lasted just 140 days in the hot seat.

“When the fixtures came out, looking at the last month, if you’d have said we’d have 10 points from the run of games would we have taken it? 100 per cent,” said Johnson.

“This game coming up on Saturday I don’t think we’ll approach it any differently.

“We know it’s going to be tough.

“We won’t go there thinking it’s going to be an easy day for us.

“They’re struggling so it’s kind of a cup final for them.

“We’ll approach it like any other game.

“We’ll go there positive and just looking to get the win.

“In this league anyone can beat anyone.

“It’s who turns up on the day and has that little bit of luck.”

A key part of PNE’s successful October will be missing, Johnson’s fellow midfielder Ben Pearson suspended with his combative style seeing him pick up five quick yellow cards during his emergence as a main man in the middle of the park.

With Alan Browne also banned after his red card in the EFL Cup clash at Newcastle and John Welsh still nursing a calf problem Grayson looks like he will have to shuffle the pack at the New York Stadium.

Thankfuly, according to Johnson, PNE are well stocked in the midfield area.

“He (Pearson) plays a massive part in the team,” he said.

“Missing Ben will be big for us but we’ve got other players in the squad who can come into that slot and fill in and do as good a job.

“Myself, Paul (Gallagher), (Liam) Grimshaw, even Prings (Ben Pringle) can play in there at times.

“You’ve just got to adjust to your surroundings, who you’re playing with and the formation you’re in.

“The gaffer’s got a lot of options and whoever he picks on Saturday will go out and do the job.”

One of Johnson’s main roles is as a set piece taker, the Jamaica setting up the winner for Alex Baptiste at Norwich having scored direct from a free-kick in the 2-2 draw at Birmingham at the end of September.

It is a role he shares with Gallagher, and something that has proved to be a real weapon for PNE thus far this season.

“Paul’s a fantastic player,” said the 24-year-old.

“He contributes a lot to our team, especially with his set plays.

“In terms of who takes it, it just depends on who fancies it and how the ‘keeper stands and how he sets his wall up.

“There’s never really any arguments about free-kicks or anything like that.

“We take it in turns or whoever fancies it takes it.

“We practice once a week, maybe twice if we’re lucky, it just depends on what we’re doing on the training field.”

PNE head to South Yorkshire on the back of a 2-1 defeat at home to Newcastle, a loss that was tough to take with Grayson’s men feeling they should have been awarded two penalties by referee Chris Kavanagh.

“We thought that we definitely should have got something out of the game,” said Johnson.

“I personally think we should have had a penalty, maybe two, but it happens.

“Credit to the boys for how we played, we should have come away with at least a point.

“It’s a bit frustrating, especially with the penalty decisions, but now we go again on Saturday.”

The Rotherham game is the final one before the international break with North End keen to end this run of fixtures on a high.

Currently 13th, Preston could move back into the top 10 if results go their way.

Either way, a good result would see them complete a fine few weeks that has seen them go from being strugglers to contenders in the Championship.

Despite the momentum being created at Deepdale, Johnson believes most of the squad are looking forward to a break.

“It’s (the international break) a good thing for myself and most of the lads,” he said.

“Not necessarily Alan (Browne) because he got sent off and he’s going to have another couple of weeks without a game.

“The rest is good though and when we come back when we can go again.

“We go into Saturday’s game full of confidence, positive and aiming to get the three points.”