PNE hitman Garner almost back to normal

Preston hitman Joe Garner does his 'Birdman' dance against Oldham Athletic last month
Preston hitman Joe Garner does his 'Birdman' dance against Oldham Athletic last month
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Preston striker Joe Garner thinks he is ‘nearly there’ in terms of being back to his best after injury.

Four goals in seven starts would appear to back that theory up and the fact he believes there is still a bit more to come could be good news for PNE’s push for promotion and not such good news for opposition defences.

Sixteen goals in a campaign which includes 10 weeks out through injury is decent going and his aim is to substantially increase that tally.

Next in his sights are Crewe who visit Deepdale on Saturday.

Garner said: “I’m nearly back to my best and that is good timing for the rest of the season.

“We have 12 games left and hopefully I can be at my best for all of them.

“I suppose after three months out or whatever it was, it was going to take a bit of time to get full match sharpness.

“The game at Chesterfield when I made my first start back fell nicely and I got a couple of goals in that one.

“With each game I feel sharper, fitter, stronger, it is nice to be back out on the pitch.

“I think what helped me get through this injury was having been out before with a long-term problem.

“At Carlisle I did my anterior cruciate ligament and when you have been out for several months, you have the know-how of how to get back to where you were before.”

Garner’s tally of 16 goals for the campaign includes last week’s header at MK Dons.

There was some debate over who scored the goal but Garner is in no doubt it was his.

“It is my goal. Paul Huntington headed the ball from the corner and it hit me on the side of the head,” said the 26-year-old.

“I went up for the initial ball and luckily it has hit me.

“I’ll take goals like that all day long, it doesn’t matter how they go in the net as long as it helps us get to where we want to.

“I’ve not had to argue too much with Hunts, I just told him it was mine – it wasn’t Callum Robinson’s either!

“It was a big result and a good result for us at MK Dons – it was a great day for our supporters who went down there.”

While Garner is North End’s focal point for goals, there is not quite the reliance there was on him last season and the early part of this campaign.

Paul Gallagher is up in double figures and Huntington has eight from centre-half.

Robinson took his tally to six at MK Dons, Jermaine Beckford has five and Daniel Johnson has netted four since joining from Aston Villa.

“I’m always confident of scoring goals at this level and I’ve scored a few different types in and around there,” said Garner.

“Some of the other lads have been scoring and it is good to see the goals spread around.

“Having the midfield which we have at the moment playing behind me makes my day a bit easier out on the pitch, because of the quality they have.

“I know that if I make certain runs they will more often than not pick me out with a pass or cross.

“There is a lot of quality in our midfield, right the way through the squad.

“The two young lads who played earlier in the season did exceptionally well.

“We’ve got Neil Kilkenny, while I think John Welsh has been our best player in the last couple of months, holding it all together.

“Gally has been given more of a central role and Daniel Johnson scored for four games in a row.

“He is a top player who has come from a top club, as is Callum Robinson.

“They play with pace and power which frightens teams in this league.

“I think the gaffer has recruited well – he knew what was needed to take us up a level in our performance.”

North End take a seven-match unbeaten league run into Crewe’s visit, the Railwaymen steaming into Lancashire as something of a jinx side for PNE.

PNE are win-less in five against Crewe, their last victory coming in August 2011 in the League Cup.

Said Garner: “We are sat nicely in the league and have two massive home games coming up in Crewe this weekend and then Peterborough on Tuesday night.

“If we can pick up points in both of those, that would be great.

“When you look at our squad I can’t remember Preston being as strong as this in League One.

“We have got some good experienced players for this level and if we play well are confident of beating anyone.

“All the lads are confident in one another’s ability.

“We are in a strong position but have to work extremely hard in the next 12 games to make sure we are where we want to be.

“We sat down at the start of the season and said what we wanted.

“Everything looks healthy at the moment but we have to keep things going and stay strong as the games go by.

“We have struggled against Crewe in the last couple of years but if we are on top of our game, we will put them under a lot of pressure and make it tough for them.

“We respect them, they have some good players and have been in a bit of form of late.

“But we will be aiming to build on the win at MK Dons.”