Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson wins Championship player of month award
Alex Neil says Daniel Johnson winning the Championship player of the month award is thoroughly deserved on the Preston midfielder’s part.
Johnson’s four goals and three assists saw him pick up the August Sky Bet award.
The challenge for him now is to carry forward that form into September, starting with Brentford’s visit to Deepdale tomorrow (3pm).
North End manager Neil said: “It’s a great achievement for DJ. In my time managing in England I can’t remember one of my players having won this award.
“We get overlooked as a club sometimes, so I’m pleased and extremely proud for him, I think he thoroughly deserves it.”
Johnson was switched to a more advanced midfield role for PNE’s second game of the season against Wigan. That move, combined with the team trying to have more possession, seems to have suited the 26-year-old.
“I wouldn’t say DJ has more freedom but we have retained the ball more than we did for parts of last season,” said Neil.
“A lot of the time last year we either hit on the counter, played in transition or played off a high press.
“We have opened the pitch up more this time, put a lot of reliance on the centre-backs stepping up from the back.
“What that means is that you need technical players higher up the pitch, you need to puncture lines and take the ball in tight spaces.
“DJ has fitted into that way of playing seamlessly.”
Johnson has thanked his team-mates for helping him to win the award.
He saw off competition from Brentford striker Ollie Watkins, Mike van der Hoorn at Swansea and Charlton’s Lyle Taylor.
Said Johnson:“Personally, I’m delighted to win it and that is down to the boys. Without their contribution this would not have been possible.
“I’m happy for myself but I’ll give this one to the boys.”
Turning his thoughts to the game tomorrow, Neil expects to be without Sean Maguire (eye) and Tom Barkhuizen (groin) again due to injury.
Darnell Fisher is expected to return though, after a hip flexor problem.
Neil predicts Brentford will be ‘dangerous’ opponents, such is their movement and ability to break quickly.
“Last year we were 3-0 up against them and I told my staff we needed a fourth, they are just that type of team,” said Neil.
“They have a lot of clever patterns and movement that can cause you problems if you are not quite at it. Brentford are a dangerous team with and without the ball.
“We have to get the balance right between being set up well, being aggressive in the first phase and retaining the ball well.”