Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson has found his form under the management of Ryan Lowe

If you had to single out a player to have benefited the most from Ryan Lowe’s first month as Preston North End manager, it would be Daniel Johnson.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 1:43 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 1:44 pm

Two goals, an assist and a couple of man of the match performances have come the midfielder’s way in the three games Lowe has been in charge.

The fourth comes on Saturday at Deepdale against Birmingham City and being a former Aston Villa player, Johnson would love to make a big impact in that one.

Johnson had been on the bench for the last four games of Frankie McAvoy’s time as head coach but went straight back into the side when Lowe arrived.

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Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson

In Lowe’s 3-5-2 system, two of the midfielders have an attacking brief and that suits Johnson.

He had Alan Browne for company in the two league games against Barnsley and Stoke, then it was the turn of Ali McCann to partner him at Cardiff in the FA Cup last Sunday.

Rather than having a single No.10 supporting the strikers, the onus is on two midfielders to get up the pitch.

Johnson said: “What it does is gives you the opportunity to get more bodies into the opposition half and be more of a threat in terms of having options.

Daniel Johnson attempts to put in a cross during PNE's win at Stoke

“What we are trying to do is pin teams in, that has worked for us in the two league games so far.

“Hopefully that continues because we still have a long way to go with the work we are doing.

“The more options we have up the field, the closer we can be to the opposition goal, the better.”

Johnson found the net in the 2-1 win over Barnsley on December 11 which remarkably was the last time North End played at home.

He was on target again at Cardiff, scoring from the penalty spot – his 18th successive penalty in Preston colours.

Arguably PNE should have been awarded a second penalty late in extra time when Curtis Nelson handled in the box.

Johnson would not have taken it had one been given, with him off the pitch by then suffering from cramp.

“I’m okay now, I’ll be fine for Saturday,” said the 29-year-old.

“I had nothing left in my legs during extra time, nothing at all.”

Johnson will have been grateful for the recovery time during the clear midweek, with things set to get busy for North End in the next few weeks.

The Birmingham game is the first of nine to be played in the next month as they catch-up from the Covid postponements over Christmas.

Four midweek matches form part of that schedule, with Sheffield United due here on Tuesday night.

“Everyone knows the Championship is relentless and there will be spells when we have a lot of Saturday-Tuesday football,” said Johnson.

“We have to look after ourselves over the next few weeks, make sure we are in the right condition to be available for selection.

“As a group of players we want to find consistency and pick up as many points as we can.

“We’ve got Birmingham to focus on first and they are always a team I enjoy playing against for obvious reasons.

“It’s the first game for a while so we have to make sure we turn up in our own back yard and play well enough to get three points.”

Lowe’s arrival as PNE manager will hopefully bring with it stability after a transitional period at Deepdale over the last 12 months or so.

Last January’s transfer window saw upheaval in the playing squad, that followed by Alex Neil’s sacking in March and then McAvoy’s dismissal at the start of December.

Said Johnson: “It has been a bit of a roller coaster for the football club. That is part and parcel of football, players come and go, managers come and go.

“It’s been good for me to be involved under the new manager, I enjoy playing football and I enjoy playing for this club.

“Every manager has his own style, their own view of things, and we are taking that on board.”

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