Dave Seddon’s Preston North End Press View: Daniel Johnson is a constant presence in PNE’s goal charts


Half a century of goals from a midfielder who has not always played an attacking role is off to a good start.

Johnson has found the net quite consistently since becoming a North End player in January 2015.

PNE devotees have sung for a number of seasons about how DJ was gotten cheap from Aston Villa – £ 50,000 increasingly seems a ridiculously low price when another target is hit and an appearance is made.

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Daniel Johnson celebrates 50th goal for Preston North End in their draw against Sheffield United

Nowadays Premier League clubs would ask for a few million for a young player who had done well elsewhere on loan.

Johnson had loans at Chesterfield and Oldham during the season he joined Preston.

It was this week, seven years ago, that the midfielder helped provoke a Chesterfield retaliation at Deepdale, with the visitors coming back from 3-0 to draw 3-3.

Back to the present day and Johnson is a senior manager of PNE, a leader in the locker room.

PNE midfielder Daniel Johnson

When Alan Browne is not on the team, Johnson wears the armband.

Being a captain doesn’t seem to weigh him down, even though he flourished in leading the team.

He’s been placed behind forwards for much of the season and I think we can all agree that’s Johnson’s best position.

Sometimes against Sheffield United on Tuesday night he was almost playing as a third striker, certainly when PNE was trying to stop the Blades playing from behind.

It was Johnson who embarked on a head-to-head scenario to bring the score to 1-1 at Bramall Lane and reach the 50-goal mark – aided by Ryan Ledson and United goalkeeper Robin Olsen who s ‘is lost.

It was a smart goal, his run at the right time to get past the baseline, stay inside and meet Ledson’s ball from deep in his own half.

It might not have been a typical DJ goal as we’re more used to seeing him slide around the edge of the box and lead a left-footed finish into the net.

Johnson’s goals have been well distributed throughout his tenure at PNE, which is not too long over seven years.

He has scored four straight goals in the month following his arrival in the 2014/15 season.

That campaign, Johnson finished with eight as North End was promoted through the League One play-offs.

He was the top scorer with nine goals in the Championship’s debut season before a few drier years.

In 2016/17, Johnson scored four goals, the season after just three.

Of those three, the first came in Alex Neil’s opener, the second in a 3-1 win at Birmingham that classified as a classic away day.

Things picked up in 2018/19 when he scored seven goals, his best record of the season being 2109/20 when he found the net 12 times – winning player of the year.

There were five last season and two so far this time. It was good that his 50th midweek counted for something in terms of the result.

He had done his best to make that happen, a nice pass putting Emil Riis on the sidelines only for the Dane’s shot to cut Olsen and cross the bar.

It went well for Riis in the fifth minute of extra time when he pulled the equalizer from PNE at home.

Johnson watched him enter from the bench, having been substituted moments before the Blades took the 2-1 advantage.

McAvoy had chosen to replace the midfielder after seeing him receive treatment for a stroke, with an eye almost on the West Bromwich game.

Listening to McAvoy after the game and again on Thursday in the pre-game press conference, he wished he had left Johnson.

A few times during his stay, it looked like North End might lose his services.

In the summer of 2018, there was speculation about his departure as contract talks dragged on – he ended up putting pen to paper shortly before a Wednesday night game at Norwich.

Then there was the Rangers offer in the summer of 2020 because a contract offer was not signed.

Improved terms were agreed in January, shortly after Browne signed a new deal.

Last season was not a great one for Johnson, nor for PNE, as he missed the last rally under McAvoy with an ankle injury.

He looks more like the DJ of old, a spring in his approach to play for Jamaica in the Gold Cup.

His preseason wasn’t Bamber Bridge, Bolton, St Johnstone and Celtic, it was Guadeloupe, Suriname, Costa Rica and the United States.

It’s a tough game he and his PNE teammates face this weekend against West Bromwich Albion.

North End would need a Johnson on the song when the Baggies come to town, and the No.51 goal would be welcome.

Bringing things back to Tuesday night and the 2-2 draw in South Yorkshire was confirmation to me that football is back after more than a year behind closed doors.

Late goals such as the one scored by Riis came during the lockdown era, but the celebrations were missing.

The Bramall Lane clash was filled with incidents and actions that only a crowd could help produce.

Riis couldn’t have been better placed from a PNE fan perspective to find the net from where he made it.

The 570 supporters who crossed the Pennines were housed on the lower level of the grandstand behind that goal.

They had a close-up view of Riis bringing the ball back and shooting home, the signal for some crazy celebrations.

Footage widely shared on social media showed a PNE fan jumping five rows of seats and then disappearing from view.

Guess the fan had some aches the next morning – that sort of thing doesn’t happen while watching on iFollow!

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