Beckford ready to toe the line
Preston striker Jermaine Beckford will be looking to steer clear of controversy now that he is free of suspension.
The 33-year-old is back in the Lilywhites squad after missing seven of the last eight games – the legacy of red cards in successive matches.
His spat with team-mate Eoin Doyle in last month’s visit to Sheffield Wednesday earned them both three games on the sidelines.
Then after being sent off three minutes into his return to action against Leeds United on Boxing Day, Beckford was hit with a four-game ban.
North End manager Simon Grayson said: “Over the last few weeks we have spoken to him a lot about this.
“Jermaine is embarrassed about the whole situation and we have tried to put it to bed.
“Hopefully we can get back to talking about what he does well on the pitch.
“It has not been ideal for him or ideal for us.
“We want him to let his football do the talking now.”
It has been a frustrating season to date for Beckford, who has featured in nine games, five of those starts.
For two months he was kept on the sidelines by a torn hamstring.
Then as he worked to get himself back to full sharpness, he got the two red cards.
Beckford comes back to add competition to a front line which is well stocked in terms of numbers but one Grayson is looking to add extra quality to.
Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson were paired up front together against Arsenal and Brighton.
On the bench last week was Simon Makienok and Stevie May, with Doyle not making the matchday squad.
Grayson said: “We have got May, Doyle, Makienok, Hugill, Robinson and now Becks.
“Aiden McGeady can play in the No.10 role, so can Daryl Horgan and Tom Barkhuizen.
“Strikers win you games and we are always on the look out to improve.”
It is possible that North End might allow a striker to go out on loan before the end of the transfer window.
Aberdeen have enquired about taking May on loan for the rest of the season.
Dons boss Derek McInnes was in charge at St Johnstone when the striker came through the ranks there.
Doyle has been attracting interest too, with a few clubs looking at him.
Grayson is minded to wait until nearer to the deadline before deciding if to loan out anyone.
He said: “We are not going to let anyone out, if at all, until the last few days.
“I’ll assess things and do what is right for us because I don’t want to leave us short.
“If anyone goes out, it will be for the benefit of the club and the player.
“I don’t like to rush, we don’t have to do anything to finance deals or new ones coming in.
“It is a balance between keeping the squad happy and having enough bodies.
“We have a lot of games coming up and we want to finish the season really strongly.”
May’s position is a tricky one, the Scotsman needing games after a year out with a serious knee injury.
Ideally, he would get that playing time at Preston but he has others in front of him at the moment as Grayson looks to push up the Championship.
He got the nod ahead of Doyle for the bench against Brighton.
But with the game finely poised in the closing stages, it was not the occasion to bring him on – substitutes were used in different areas as PNE saw the match out.