Dave Seddon's Preston North End Press View: Daniel Johnson is a consistent presence in PNE's goalscoring charts
Daniel Johnson hit the big 50 for Preston North End in the week and there will no doubt be more to come from him.
A half century of goals from a midfielder who has not always played in an attacking role is good going.
Johnson has found the net pretty consistently since becoming a North End player in January 2015.
The PNE faithful have for a number of seasons sung about how DJ was secured on the cheap from Aston Villa – £50,000 looks more and more a ridiculously low fee when another goal goes in and appearance made.
Nowadays, Premier League clubs would be asking a couple of million for a young player who had done well elsewhere on loan.
Johnson had loans at Chesterfield and Oldham in the season he joined Preston.
It was this week seven years ago that the midfielder helped prompt a fight back from Chesterfield at Deepdale, the visitors coming back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3.
Back to the present day and Johnson is a senior figure at PNE, a leader in the dressing room.
When Alan Browne isn’t in the team, it is Johnson who wears the armband.
Being captain doesn’t seem to weigh him down, if anything he’s thrived in leading the team.
He’s been given a job behind the strikers for much of the season and I think we can all agree that is Johnson’s best position.
At times against Sheffield United on Tuesday night he was almost playing as a third striker, certainly when PNE were trying to halt the Blades playing out from the back.
It was Johnson who got himself into a one-on-one scenario to make it 1-1 at Bramall Lane and reach the 50-goal mark – helped by Ryan Ledson and indeed United’s goalkeeper Robin Olsen who went wandering.
It was a clever goal, his run well-timed to get beyond the home backline, stay onside and meet Ledson’s ball from deep inside his own half of the pitch.
Perhaps that wasn’t a typical DJ goal in that we are more used to seeing him glide around the edge of the box and steer a left-foot finish into the net.
Johnson’s goals have been nicely spread throughout his stay at PNE which isn’t too long off seven years.
He scored four in a row within a month of arriving during the 2014/15 season.
That campaign Johnson finished with eight as North End were promoted via the League One play-offs.
He was top scorer with nine goals in the first season in the Championship before a couple of drier years.
In 2016/17 Johnson scored four goals, the season after just three.
Of those three, the first came in Alex Neil’s opening game in charge, the second in a 3-1 win at Birmingham which ranked as a classic away day.
Things picked-up again in 2018/19 when he netted seven goals, with his best season’s tally coming in 2109/20 when 12 times he found the net – winning player of the year.
There were five last season and two to date this time. It was nice that his 50th in midweek counted for something in terms of a result.
He’d done his best to make that happen, a fine pass putting Emil Riis clear only for the Dane’s shot to clip off Olsen and travel over the bar.
It came good for Riis in the fifth minute of time added on when he fired home PNE’s equaliser.
Johnson watched that one go in from the bench, having been substituted moments before the Blades had gone 2-1 ahead.
McAvoy had chosen to sub the midfielder having seen him receive treatment for a knock, with an eye almost on the West Bromwich game.
Listening to McAvoy post match and again on Thursday at the pre-match press conference, he wished he’d left Johnson on.
A couple of times during his stay it looked like North End might lose his services.
In the summer of 2018 there was speculation of him leaving as contract talks dragged on – he ended-up putting pen to paper shortly before a Wednesday night game at Norwich.
Then there was the bid from Rangers in summer 2020 as a contract offer remained unsigned.
Improved terms were agreed in January, not long after Browne had signed a new deal.
Last season wasn’t a great one for Johnson, nor PNE, with him missing the late rally under McAvoy due to an ankle injury.
He is looking more like the DJ of old, a spring in his step from playing for Jamaica at the Gold Cup.
His pre-season wasn’t Bamber Bridge, Bolton, St Johnstone and Celtic, it was Guadaloupe, Suriname, Costa Rica and the United States.
It’s a tough game him and his PNE team-mates face this weekend against West Bromwich Albion.
North End could do with an on-song Johnson when the Baggies come to town, and goal No.51 would be a most welcome one.
Nudging things back to Tuesday night again and the 2-2 draw in South Yorkshire was for me confirmation that football is properly back after more than a year of being behind closed doors.
Late goals such as the one Riis scored, did happen in the lockdown era but missing were the celebrations.
The Bramall Lane clash was packed with incident and action which only a crowd could help produce.
Riis couldn’t have been better placed from the PNE fans’ point of view to find the net from where he did.
The 570 supporters who crossed the Pennines were housed on the bottom tier of the stand behind that goal.
They had a close-up view of Riis bringing the ball down and shooting home that the cue for some crazy celebrations.
A widely shared piece of footage on social media showed one PNE fan jump five rows of seats and then disappear from view.
I presume said fan had a few aches and pains the following morning – that sort of thing doesn’t happen watching on iFollow!
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