Sean Gregan’s exclusive column

Jermaine Beckford

Jermaine Beckford

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Preston North End’s draw with Bristol City was a decent result, another point gained and another game chalked-off as we reach the last three weeks of the season.

City are up at the top of the table for a reason – only five defeats all season – and they were strong at Deepdale.

What will have got Simon Grayson’s back up a little bit was the equaliser, it coming from a set piece.

North End are normally quite strong when it comes to defending free-kicks and corners but for City’s leveller, the ball was in the end for quite a while without anyone able to get in a clearance.

A few minutes earlier it had been Jermaine Beckford raising the roof by putting North End into the lead.

That goal is exactly what Beckford is all about, being in the right place at the right time.

It looked to me like Paul Gallagher shanked it a bit but when the ball rolled across the six-yard box, Beckford was there to stick it in.

Beckford has really grown into this loan spell with North End and I think we are seeing the best of him now he has got over the illness he had.

Simon Grayson knows him well from managing the lad at Leeds and Huddersfield and knows how to push the right buttons to get the best out of him.

Beckford is out of contract in the summer at his parent club Bolton and so he is playing for a new deal somewhere.

If North End do get up, I’m sure that a permanent move would appeal to him.

I was at Leeds when they signed Beckford from non-league football.

He had tons of pace but was very raw and it took him a while to settle there.

To be fair, non-league to a side at the top end of the Championship would be a big jump for any player.

Leeds were pushing for promotion at the time so it was not really the right time to throw Beckford straight in.

He had a couple of loans at Carlisle and Scunthorpe and then got a good run of games when Dennis Wise took over.

From what I’ve seen, you have to give Beckford sugar rather than a blast in order to get the best out of him.

That is something which Grayson has seen, hence him being a manager who Beckford likes to work with.

He had his season in the Premier League at Everton which was a big step up and managed eight goals there.

They signed him on a free transfer so he wasn’t a gamble on Everton’s part.

I would say that Beckford is still a Championship-standard striker, so he is a real asset to Preston.

His experience of being involved in promotion pushes will also be valuable.

There are quite a few lads in the Preston dressing room who have won promotions at other clubs and they will be tapping into that knowledge at the moment.

Saturday’s draw kept North End five points clear in second place with five games to go.

Keep matching or bettering MK Dons’ results and they will be promoted.

It is an cliché but this stage of the season is about taking one game at a time. North End are doing that well.

Had they dropped off a bit over Easter knowing they had the Bristol City game coming up, they would have got punished.

As it was, they had two good wins against Rochdale and Bradford – winning 3-0 at Valley Parade was impressive – then followed it up with Saturday’s 1-1 draw.

The next game is always the most important, so the big one now is Gillingham at home.