Paul Gallagher’s ice cool spot-kick fired Preston North End to a 1-0 victory over Barnsley at Deepdale.
PNE captain John Welsh was brought down in the box and Gallagher stepped up to smash the ball past Tykes keeper Adam Davies in the 16th minute.
But Thorsten Stuckmann saved the day late on with a fine fingertip save to deny Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane’s thunderous long range strike in stoppage time to ensure three points..
Despite another 1-0 victory Simon Grayson’s men stay fourth in the League One table. PNE are level on 44 points with Swindon and MK Dons but North End’s title rivals have a superior goal difference.
PNE survived an early scare as Leroy Lita wasted a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the fifth minute. Luke Berry fizzed the ball into Lita’s feet 10-yards out but the striker skimmed the ball wide of Thorsten Stuckmann’s right hand post.
North End upped the ante as Gallagher’s fierce free-kick found an unmarked Beckford in the box, but he fired his free header straight at Barnsley keeper Davies - who started in place of the suspended Ross Turnbull in the 11th minute.
The striker smashed an ambitious volley over the bar two minutes later after latching on to Kevin Davies’ knock-down.
North End took the lead in the 16th minute from the penalty spot. John Welsh burst into the box after pouncing on the loose ball but he was tripped and referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot. Gallagher stepped up and fired the ball coolly past Davies.
Laird’s cross-come-shot was parried by Davies into the path of his namesake but the PNE striker connected badly with the ball and it flew wide.
Laird made another probing run down the left flank before cutting the ball back to Kikenny who’s shot was deflected wide by Lewin Nyatanga in the 35th minute.
After the break the impressive Gallagher danced his way through Barnsley’s half before unselfishly teeing up Beckford in the box. The striker attempted to chip Davies but the Tykes keeper collected comfortably in the 53rd minute.
Humphrey blasted the ball over the bar in the 55th minute and Laird leapt above his marker but directed his header straight at Davies in the 59th minute.
Another Beckford header was comfortably collected by Davies and Calum Woods - back in the side at right back as Scott Wiseman missed the clash due to flu - roamed into the box but his shot was deflected wide.
Barnsely nearly equalised late on as Marcello Trotta headed the ball towards goal but Stuckmann thwarted the Tykes as he gathered the ball.
And Stuckmann pulled off a fine fingertip save in stoppage time to deny Conor Hourihane’s 25-yard thunderbolt and ensured the three points for PNE.
PNE: Stuckmann, Woods, Clarke, Huntington, Laird, Humphrey, Welsh, Kilkenny, Gallagher (Hayhurst, 80), Davies, Beckford (Little, 80) . Subs not used: Jones, Buchanan, Little, King, Brownhill, Browne.
Barnsley: Davies, Berry, Nyatanga, Hourihane, Hemmings (Oates, 67), Jennings, Ramage, Smith, Holgate, Bailey (Williams, 56) , Lita (Trotta, 78). Subs not used: Dibble, Abbott, Digby, Cowgill.
Referee: Paul Tierney (Wigan)