Preston North End midfielder remembers learning a big lesson on his Lilywhites' debut

Daniel Johnson has looked back to a moment during his Preston North End debut as being a steep learning curve.

Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 1:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th May 2020, 1:18 pm

The midfielder pulled on a PNE shirt for the first time on January 31, 2015, against Crawley Town at the Broadfield Stadium.

Crawley won 2-1, with their winner coming three minutes from time from Lee Fowler.

Unfortunately for Johnson, he should have been marking Fowler at the corner which led to the goal.

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Daniel Johnson on his Preston North End debut against Crawley Town in January 2015

It was that which brought sharply into focus the demands of first-team football.

Johnson had got a taste of the senior game during loan spells from Aston Villa at Yeovil, Chesterfield and Oldham.

Now he was a North End player after a £50,000 switch from Villa.

“My debut didn’t quite go the way I wanted,” said Johnson in an interview with Sky Sports.

Daniel Johnson on the ball in his Preston debut against Crawley

“The guy who scored the winner for Crawley was my man at the corner.

“In the dressing room after the game, the gaffer asked whose man it was.

“I didn’t really want to say anything but I knew the gaffer would look back at the game and see it was me.

“If I didn’t own up then, he would have pulled me up on it.

“From that moment I realised that this was men's football now, I knew I had to really grow up.

“Fortunately after that we went on a 19-game unbeaten and got promoted, although we nearly messed it up by not getting automatic promotion.”

Johnson scored eight goals in that second-half of the 2014/15 season after putting pen to paper on the move from Villa for that bargain fee.

Five years on, he has played 212 games for PNE and found the net 42 times.

When this season was suspended in March, he was North End’s top scorer in the Championship with 11 goals.

Tom Barkhuizen has also found the net 11 times but twice but two of those came in the Carabao Cup.

Like all his team-mates, Johnson is sitting tight and waiting for the green light to return to training.

That could be on May 16 as the EFL attempt to re-start the season in early June.

However, that is subject to Government advice.

Johnson, 27, said: “I’ve been working at home although it is harder not having the facilities you normally have at the training ground.

“I’ve been doing a few 5k runs, strength and core work, just ticking over really while we wait to get back.”