DAN:WE HAD THE PERFECT RIPOSTE
NOTHING screams ‘division’ more than a bust-up between two of your own players – but the unsavoury events of a fortnight ago are ancient history, according to Daniel Johnson.
The Preston midfielder was the first man to wade into a fight between team-mates Eoin Doyle and Jermaine Beckford, provoked by a squabble over who was best placed to score.
Ultimately, not only did the Lilywhites succumb to a 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, but the strikers earned three-match suspensions for their troubles.
Boss Simon Grayson did not mince words when he branded the pair’s behaviour a disgrace and the internet proceeded to poke fun at the club’s expense in the merciless way only social media can.
But Johnson insists that, as far as the dressing room is concerned, the slate was wiped clean from the moment the players reported back into training.
“It was quickly forgotten about on the Monday. The lads apologised and we didn’t speak about it again from that point on. We were on to the next game,” he said.
“It’s just one of those things. Naturally, people fall out in teams when emotions are running high, though obviously you never really see things like that.
“But we’ve got a great set of boys and it was never going to affect us for long. It is business as usual and, hopefully, we are proving that with the results we’ve had.”
The incident harked back to the infamous punch-up at Newcastle between Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer, which brought shame on St James’ Park in 2005.
But, in contrast to the Magpies – who won just two of their last 11 games of the season in the aftermath – Preston are clearly made of sterner stuff.
Having issued refunds to the travelling support that witnessed the red mist descend at Hillsborough, the Lilywhites paid their fans back – and then some – on derby day a week later.
Johnson scored a 25-yard screamer and then a penalty, but it was left to Callum Robinson to nick the deciding goal in a 3-2 victory over Blackburn.
“We knew what it meant to the fans and the football club as a whole to not only get the three points but the bragging rights,” 24year-old Johnson said. “It was really good to respond by getting the win.
“I was happy with my two goals. It had been a little while since I was on the scoresheet. I feel I was in good form in training and it’s great to bring that out on the Saturday.
“I will do my best to take opportunities when they come and,
hopefully, the boys chip in with goals as well.” Though Doyle and Beckford served the last game of their suspensions yesterday, there is no guarantee that Grayson will let them off the naughty step immediately after Christmas.
But they will need all the firepower they can get to hang on to the coat-tails of the Championship’s play-off chasers – and Johnson is dreaming big.
“I don’t see why we can’t get into the play-offs – we are on a little run at the moment,” he added.
“We’ve picked up a few points and now we want to see where this takes us.
“There are still six months to go so lots of things can happen before then, but we’ve definitely got a chance.
“We know what this Christmas period is about. The manager trusts us to look after ourselves but also encourages us to enjoy this time with our families.
“We’ve got to be professional and I think we can give the fans a
lot more to cheer about.”
PEACEMAKER: Daniel Johnson holds Preston NE striker Jermaine Beckford back before he is sent off