PNE striker’s year to remember

Joe Garner is the second highest scorer in English league football in 2014
Joe Garner is the second highest scorer in English league football in 2014
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Preston North End front man Joe Garner has been one of the country’s most lethal strikers since the calender flipped over to 2014.

The striker’s penalty against Coventry at the weekend was his 20th league and play-off goal of the year, with only Nottingham Forest’s Britt Assombalonga boasting a better record in all four divisions – he has netted 21 for Forest and Peterborough.

Garner can add three more to his tally for 2014 when you factor in his hat-trick against Ipswich in the FA Cup.

Likewise, Assombalonga has scored three more in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

This time last year, Garner was watching from PNE’s bench with just one goal – in the 2-2 draw with MK Dons – to his name.

He started to catch fire in November, scoring seven in five games that month.

Five of those goals came in the league against Tranmere, Leyton Orient, Colchester and Port Vale (2).

Garner served notice of the impressive form to come in 2014 by netting twice in the 3-2 win over Port Vale on New Year’s Day at Deepdale.

In league action, he did not score again until February 1 – but the treble against Ipswich was sandwiched in between.

He was a regular scorer for the remainder of the season, his final one of the 2013/14 term being the stunner in the play-off first leg against Rotherham.

The 26-year-old has carried on this season where he left off in May, finding the net seven times – all in League One.

His name has featured on the scoresheet for the last four games – his best sequence since last November’s tally.

Garner has maintained his good form this season playing in the main as a lone central striker in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. It is something new for him to get his teeth into but he has been busy studying the role.

Garner told the Evening Post: “I have never really played in a 4-3-3 before up front of my own.

“I’m working hard off the pitch, studying players and teams who play that way.

“A few times I have sat down with Kevin Davies to discuss playing in that position and what movements to make.

“Our analyst Ali Lishman does plenty of work with us, providing footage of our games and others.

“The 4-3-3 is the modern way at the minute. The top sides play that well but they have also have top, top players doing it.

“I can learn from watching the top players and hopefully improve with every game.”

While Preston obviously lean heavily on Garner for goals, they are not short of others chipping in.

Tom Clarke became the club’s 10th scorer in all competitions this season when he volleyed PNE ahead against Coventry.

Chris Humphrey, Andy Little and Jordan Hugill have all netted twice.

Clarke, Alan Browne, Josh Brownhill, Jack King, Bailey Wright and Neil Kilkenny are the players with one goal to their name so far.

Said Garner: “We have spread the goals around quite well, to be fair.

“When you have Paul Gallagher’s quality at free-kicks and corners you are always going to be in with a good chance. Gally’s delivery for Tom Clarke’s goal at the weekend was perfect.”