PNE boss setting goals for midfielder DJ

Preston midfielder Daniel Johnson celebrates scoring against Birmingham
Preston midfielder Daniel Johnson celebrates scoring against Birmingham
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Alex Neil wants to see Daniel Johnson on the scoresheet more often to follow up his fine goal in Preston’s victory over Birmingham.

The midfielder found the net in style at St Andrews, sweeping a shot into the net from outside the box after a run from deep.

DJ scored PNE’s winner on the opening day of the season against Sheffield Wednesday from the penalty spot.

But Saturday’s goal was his first from open play since last December when he netted at Bristol City.

North End manager Neil said: “The pleasing thing for me was DJ’s quality for the first goal.

“It was excellent and it is something he needed to add to his game more because he is such a good player.

“If you had asked me at half-time on Saturday about him, I would probably have said he wasn’t very good as he didn’t do well enough.

“In the second half he was great and I could see how much that goal meant to him.

“I’m really pleased for DJ and it is great to have him back.”

Johnson, 24, had missed the games against Barnsley and Cardiff due to an injury suffered in training during the international break.

He went straight back into the midfield at Birmingham at the expense of John Welsh.

It was the second season in a row he had scored against the Blues, having done so in the 2-2 draw there last term.

For a player who spent a number of years on the books of Birmingham’s fierce rivals Aston Villa, scoring again was a big moment for him.

North End now turn their attention to playing host to Millwall on Saturday.

With a five-game unbeaten run having taken them up to fourth in the Championship, it is a clash with surely merits a decent-sized crowd as Neil looks to keep progressing.

Said Neil: “When you set yourselves standards and know you can hit them, it is something you should expect.

“My job is keep driving that, and the one thing I can assure everyone – and I told this to the players after the game at Birmingham – is that I will be demanding everything from them every day.

“That is why the boys are performing so well and it is great to be talking about how they have been doing.”

For Millwall’s visit, Neil is hoping to have a couple more faces back in the squad after injury and illness.

Ben Pearson could return following three games out with a thigh problem.

At Birmingham, Darnell Fisher missed out with a groin problem, while Paul Gallagher did not travel because he was unwell.

Neil said: “I want to get players back as quickly as we can – the more competition we have, the better.”