Daniel Johnson’s display left Preston North End boss smiling
Alex Neil was pleased to see Daniel Johnson’s true talent on show in Preston’s draw with Sheffield Wednesday.
Lilywhites manager Neil felt it was the midfielder’s best display in a long time and wants more of the same in the final game of the season at Brentford on Sunday and in the 2019/20 campaign.
Johnson was used in a deeper role as Neil looked to fill the gaps left by the absence of holding midfielders Ryan Ledson and Ben Pearson.
He had Paul Gallagher next to him in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Alan Browne ahead of them in the No.10 role.
It was his 10th start in the last 11 matches.
Neil said: “I thought DJ had his best game for a while.
“He was tackling and I saw him win a couple of headers, I couldn’t believe me eyes!
“DJ is a quality player, I said to him at half-time against Sheffield Wednesday that at times he doesn’t recognise how good he can be.
“He needs the tenacity, the determination and the hunger that some players find easy to have week in, week out.
“DJ needs to find that or a mechanism within himself to get to that point every time he steps on that pitch. When he is determined, there is no question he has that quality.”
Neil’s midfield options were limited for Wednesday’s visit and will be again for the visit to Griffin Park.
Ledson, 21, is serving a four-match ban and will not be available until the third game of next season.
The threat of a ban and the fact he had suffered a family bereavement, saw Pearson left out on Saturday.
Another yellow card for Pearson would trigger a three-game ban which carries over to next season.
With that in mind, it is unlikely he will be involved at Brentford.
Said Neil: “Ben didn’t train on Friday due to a family bereavement.
“His booking was also at the back of my mind.
“The Sheffield Wednesday game was important and so is the Brentford one.
“I would be kicking myself, though, if I lost Ben for the start of next season.
“Next season in my eyes is the real deal, we need to make sure we get off to a good start.
“I really want to attack next season and do well.”
Neil will have to keep an eye on Alan Browne’s fitness this week, the midfielder having hurt his ankle when scoring PNE’s third goal on Saturday.
He had missed four of the previous seven games with an ankle ligament injury.