Preston midfielder Daniel Johnson happy to mark five years at PNE with a rarity
Daniel Johnson produced something of a rarity to mark five years playing for Preston North End.
The midfielder scored in PNE’s 3-0 win at Barnsley last Tuesday night, that coming two days before the fifth anniversary of him joining from Aston Villa.
That was not the rarity, that goal being his 40th in a North End shirt and the ninth from him this season.
The fact Johnson scored it with his right foot was the collector’s item angle, there haven’t been many of those have there?
“That is not something I produce too often,” said Johnson with a smile as he looked back on finding the net at Oakwell.
“It actually took a lot of concentration to score with my right foot.
“Had it fallen to me on my left foot and I would have been concentrating more on where I was going to put it.
“With it being my right foot I just had to concentrate on making sure it hit the target and thankfully it did.
“Any goal is good to score and I enjoyed that one, it came in an important game which we wanted to win.”
Time has flown since DJ landed at Deepdale. It was January 23, 2015 that he put pen to paper on a move from Aston Villa.
The fee was given as ‘undisclosed’ in line with EFL regulations but word soon slipped out that North End had paid just £50,000.
To this day the ‘50 Grand’ anthem is sung by the Lilywhites faithful in honour of him.
PNE have certainly had their money’s worth, in fact they have had it several times over and counting.
In the first-half of the season before Preston signed him, Johnson had been on loan at Chesterfield and Oldham.
He had played against them for Chesterfield in a game when North End led 3-0 but were pegged back for a 3-3 draw, Eoin Doyle netting a hat-trick for the Spireites.
Johnson had been on the radar for some months, his performances in the loans at Chesterfield and Oldham making PNE’s mind up that he worth signing.
He had a nine-day wait for his debut after putting pen to paper as North End were in the FA Cup and he was cup-tied.
His bow came in a 2-1 away defeat against Crawley.
Preston bounced back with two wins and then DJ hit a four-game scoring streak, finding the net against Scunthorpe, Walsall, Oldham and Doncaster – his strike in a 4-0 win at Boundary Park catching the eye.
Johnson was to finish with eight goals that season as North End won promotion via the play-offs.
In the first season back in the Championship, he was top scorer with nine goals.
Seven of those came in the first-half of the campaign.
The 27-year-old is now on the 40-goal mark, with him netting nine this season.
His use a little further forward has benefited him in 2019/20.
Alex Neil rung the changes after losing at Millwall on the opening day and Johnson was one of those to come into the side against Wigan at Deepdale the following week.
He was very good that day as the No.10 and went on to have a run of games there.
North End boss Neil has at times had Johnson playing further back in the ‘eight’ role and at Barnsley had him on the left side of a diamond.
Johnson is just back from a seven-week absence with a knee ligament injury, a spell in which he missed nine games. North End’s form without him wasn’t great.
For completeness though, they lost three on the bounce before he suffered his injury.
He returned for the 2-1 win over Charlton a few days before the Barnsley victory.
Johnson said: “Before the Charlton game I felt good in training. I told the gaffer I felt good and that I’d be happy to play.
“It was to good to get the win against Charlton and then to follow that up at Barnsley.
“Momentum is what this division is all about, it is a crazy league.
“Once you find some momentum you can soon move up the table.
“Two wins on the bounce can hopefully give us plenty of confidence for the games ahead.”
Next up for North End is Saturday’s Deepdale clash with Swansea City.
The Welsh club’s defeat at Stoke this weekend prevented them leapfrogging PNE in the table.
Back in August, they lost 3-2 in the reverse fixture at the Liberty Stadium.
Johnson found the net in that game from the penalty spot, briefly pulling them level at 2-2.
It is a busy February in the Championship, with clubs scheduled to play seven games in the 29 days.
You would think that the table will take shape in that time, the distraction of the transfer window gone.
It is a time when some real consistency is called for, when the best players really need to step up to the plate and produce.
North End will look to Johnson to be one of their key performers, to produce that craft and guile from the middle of the park.
This mini break in action will have afforded him that bit of time to sharpen his fitness after the lay-off.
Johnson now has 205 PNE games under his belt, here’s to many more.