Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson glad to be back in business after injury lay-off

Daniel Johnson in action for Preston against Charlton on his return from injuryDaniel Johnson in action for Preston against Charlton on his return from injury
Daniel Johnson in action for Preston against Charlton on his return from injury
Daniel Johnson admits his return to the Preston North End side after injury has been a challenging one.

Results have been good since the midfielder came back – two victories and a draw – and his performances have played a big part.

However, being thrown back in at the deep end following seven weeks out has been hard on the legs.

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“My body was in bits after the Charlton game, I definitely felt it,” said Johnson.

PNE midfielder Daniel JohnsonPNE midfielder Daniel Johnson
PNE midfielder Daniel Johnson

“Things really did hurt and we had another game on the Tuesday night.

“But I was able to get through it because I had been well managed and taken care of during my time out injured.

“When you come back from an injury having been out for a while, it is the excitement which tends to get you through the first couple of games.

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“You are just pleased to be back out there and that gives you the extra bit you need.

Daniel Johnson takes on Swansea skipper Matt GrimesDaniel Johnson takes on Swansea skipper Matt Grimes
Daniel Johnson takes on Swansea skipper Matt Grimes

“Before the Charlton game, the manager said to me, ‘Give me everything you have got, when you blow up put your hand up and I’ll take you off’.

“I was just happy to be out there after missing seven weeks.

“It had been frustrating to come and watch the side play or knowing that the boys were travelling away and I wasn’t with them.

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“I’m buzzing to be back even though it was hard work on my body.

“I still don’t know how I managed 85 minutes against Charlton and I think the adrenaline then got me through at Barnsley.

“Even last week against Swansea I’m not sure how I did 90 minutes because I was cramping up – that was a consequence of being out for the length of time I was.

“I think I should be all right from here, we didn’t have a midweek game so I’ve been able to train and get some rest.

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“I’ll make sure I give myself the best possible chance to play my best.”

Johnson was injured in the Deepdale defeat to West Bromwich Albion on December 2, straining a knee ligament.

North End’s form in his absence was patchy. In the nine games he was out the record was won two, drew three, lost four.

The wins over Charlton and Barnsley, coupled with last week’s draw against Swansea, have helped Alex Neil’s men climb to seventh place.

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Victory against Wigan at the DW Stadium on Saturday (12.30pm) would keep them firmly in the play-off hunt.

It was the reverse fixture with Wigan back in August at Deepdale when North End got their season up and running.

Having been beaten 1-0 at Millwall on the opening day, Neil made four changes to the side and saw them win 3-0 against Paul Cook’s men.

Johnson was one of the changes that day, having been an unused substitute the week before.

Neil used him as a No.10, a position he has thrived in.

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While Johnson has also been played slightly deeper on occasions, the more advanced role has really suited him.

“That game was really good for us, it went well as a team and personally for me,” said the 27-year-old.

“We are a few months on from that game and our focus is in on playing Wigan at their place.

“It is a derby, it should be a good game and fingers crossed, we can go there and win.

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“The kick-off is early which I’m never a great fan of but that’s part and parcel of the game these days.

“Give me 3pm anytime, however it is no problem – getting ready for the early games isn’t a problem.”

Wigan’s form has got better of late, Saturday’s hosts winning their last two games against Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday.

The 1-0 victory at Leeds was a real coupon buster but Johnson thinks that is simply the nature of the Championship.

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Johnson said: “It’s a crazy league, that has been said plenty of times before.

“It’s very much about on the day, not necessarily about league position or recent results.

“If you perform well on the day, get the better of your man and some of your team-mates do, you give yourself every chance.

“We go to Wigan in decent form and we’ll focus on ourselves.

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“We’ll respect Wigan like we do every opponent and try to win.

“This is the start of a busy spell – we play midweek too.

“If we play well and get plenty of points on the board, these next few weeks are a brilliant opportunity for us.

“We’ll take it game by game and see how many points we can get.

“The next two games are away and our results on the road are something we have spoken about recently.

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“We’ve steadily been getting better away and had some good results.

“If we could go to Wigan and win there, we can take that into the next game at Stoke on Wednesday.

“We have been playing with confidence and are looking forward to it.”