Sibling rivalry for PNE goalkeeper

Sam Johnstone
Sam Johnstone
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  • North End goalkeeper’s brother is trainee at Fleetwood
  • Preston visit the Cod Army on Sunday
  • Sam Johnstone looking for his eighth clean sheet
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Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone will see his younger brother become a rival for the day when Preston North End face Fleetwood Town this weekend.

His sibling Max, is a trainee keeper with the Highbury Stadium outfit, so family loyalty will have to be put to one side on Sunday afternoon.

I let him have some of my old gloves and boots and it is nice to see him doing well.

Both have followed in their dad’s footsteps, Glenn Johnstone having been a shot-stopper – he played for PNE in the 1992/93 season.

The family link is another sprinkling of spice to the televised clash which is North End’s first visit to Fleetwood for a competitive fixture.

Cod boss Graham Alexander served PNE with distinction in two spells as a player and also had a stint as caretaker manager.

His staff contains Chris Lucketti, Youl Mawene, David Lucas and Barry Nicholson, who are all former Lilywhites players.

Johnstone, who today celebrates his 22nd birthday, told the Evening Post: “My younger brother Max is at Fleetwood, he’s a keeper too.

“Max has been there since last summer, this is his first year as a scholar in their youth team.

“He is 16 and 6ft 5ins so he is taller than me – I’m about 6ft 3.

“I let him have some of my old gloves and boots and it is nice to see him doing well.

“Max was ready to go to college after leaving school but then this chance came along at Fleetwood.

“Before that he had just been playing park football and at school.

“I saw him Sunday just gone and we had a chat about the game.

“He is happy that I’m here and I’m happy that he is there getting a start in football.

“Max will probably be there watching but hopefully it will be me with a smile on my face afterwards.”

Sunday afternoon’s visit to the North Fylde coast will be a 14th game in the Preston keeper’s jersey for Johnstone.

Seven of the previous 13 have seen him keep clean sheets, including five in a row in February.

Had PNE held out for another 11 minutes or so at Barnsley last Saturday, there would have been another shut-out for Johnstone to talk about.

“We were gutted to draw the Barnsley game,” said Johnstone.

“Our aim is to win every match and we weren’t far away from doing that at the weekend.

“A draw is better than losing but with the run we’ve been on, we were confident of a win.

“I suppose what hurt us against Barnsley was that their equaliser came quite late on.

“It was a bit of a different feeling to when we drew with Doncaster a couple of weeks ago.

“Although we conceded two late goals in that game, we then scored a late equaliser.

“It was difficult at Barnsley, they are going well and put quite a lot of pressure on in the second half.

“They hit the post in the first half but I didn’t have a save to make.

“Barnsley were dangerous at set-pieces but I thought we defended well and that we were going to hold on to the lead.

“It can get difficult in the last few minutes when a side is pushing on against you.

“Overall though, we are on a really good run at the moment with eight wins and two draws.

“The Fleetwood game is one we are looking forward to, it’s on the television and they are going well.

“We’ve got a few days to build-up to it, work on one or two things as well as getting a bit of rest.

“I would think the ground will be packed and the atmosphere should be good.

“The link between some of the Fleetwood staff and players will make things interesting.

“We are concentrating on what we are all about, we know what we have to do.

“We’ll go to Fleetwood fresh and ready knowing that we have a tough games on our hands against a very good side.”