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Feature: The big 50 - Johnson hits half a century of goals

16 September 2021

Whilst most people usually bemoan hitting the big five-zero, for Daniel Johnson, it marks a significant milestone in his Preston North End career.

Tuesday evening represented a big night for the midfielder – unbeknownst to him – who notched his 50th goal in Lilywhites colours in the Sky Bet Championship, as Preston recorded a 2-2 stalemate with Sheffield United.

The 28-year-old levelled proceedings for Preston, following Morgan Gibbs-White’s early opener inside the first 10 minutes. Frankie McAvoy’s side snatched a late point from the Blades, after Sander Berge restored United’s lead in the 85th minute, only to be cancelled out by Emil Riis Jakobsen deep into stoppage time.

Johnson, who joined the Club in January 2015 from Aston Villa and inked a contract extension at the beginning of the year, admitted he wasn’t aware he was on the brink of half a century of goals but described the strike as an “unbelievable” feeling nevertheless.

“I don’t ever tell anyone my goals, my personal goals, but that was one of them to obviously get to the 50 mark and happily for me today I’ve done it,” he said post-match, speaking to iFollow.

And it was a smart strike to mark the milestone, as Johnson latched onto Ryan Ledson’s looping long ball, bringing it under his spell before coolly slotting beyond Robin Olsen, making the midfielder Preston’s third all-time record goal-scorer.

‘DJ’, as he’s affectionately known to supporters, made his Lilywhites bow in a 2-1 defeat away at Crawley Town in January 2015 and just a few weeks later, he opened his account at Deepdale, netting the opener in a 2-0 triumph over Scunthorpe United.

With an eye for goal, the strike acted as the catalyst. Johnson netted in four successive League One fixtures, going on to find the back of the net against Walsall, Oldham Athletic and Doncaster Rovers as Preston climbed into the top two.

After winning promotion to the second-tier with the Club, Simon Grayson’s side finished their first campaign back in the Championship in a creditable 11th place. Johnson bagged nine goals in all competitions in 44 outings as Preston made it known that they were back.

However, he provided his best return in 2019/20, when Preston finished the season just four points adrift of the Play-Off places. Johnson broke into double figures, tallying 12 strikes across the campaign.

Not to mention he developed somewhat of a knack for netting against local rivals, as Johnson engineered a 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers in 2016 – a team Preston hadn’t beaten on home soil since 1997.

And he’s earned the respect of three North End managers, all of whom were all in agreement that Johnson has established himself as the beating heart of the Club. McAvoy described him as a “top player”, whilst Alex Neil before him billed the Jamaican international as a “massive player”.

Preston supporters have witnessed Johnson turn from a fresh faced 22-year-old, looking for first-team football, to a 28-year-old linchpin in the side.

And with his second strike of the season, Johnson has already exceeded Club cult heroes Graham Alexander and Paul Gallagher.

£50,000 for 50 goals. Not bad really, is it?

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