Simon Grayson has praised the role of Jermaine Beckford in Preston North End’s promotion push.
The on-loan striker’s winner in the Good Friday victory over Rochdale gave PNE a seven-point cushion over third-placed Swindon.
Beckford spun sharply to fire home PNE’s winner eight minutes before half-time at Deepdale yesterday.
It took his goals tally to eight since joining the Lilywhites from Bolton on loan in November, a period which included a five-week absence with illness.
The goal also made amends for a bad miss in the previous game at Fleetwood where he fluffed a great chance from close range.
PNE boss Grayson said: “That is what Jermaine can do. It is amazing the contrast in opportunities from last week to this week.
“The one at Fleetwood which he didn’t score was a tap-in, this one he turned and hit really low through the keeper’s legs – it was something out of nothing.
“Players like him miss chances and take chances.
“I would rather have him in my team rather than be against him, because I know he can do things out of nothing.
“Eight goals is a good return since he came to the club, more so since he came back from the illness – he has hit the ground running.
“He was a bit fatigued after half-time so that is why he came off when he did.
“In a way, it probably suited us to make that substitution.
“We play a little bit lop-sided on that right-hand side so we got more balance there with Chris Humphrey coming on.
“Chris contributed and did really well. He ran at defenders and gave us an outlet, did the defensive side too.”
The 1-0 win moved PNE seven points clear of Swindon who have two games in hand, the first of which they play this lunchtime against MK Dons.
Grayson’s men are next in action on Monday afternoon at Bradford, sales of their away allocation now beyond the 2,000 mark.
The win over Rochdale was far from a classic, something Grayson admitted as he reflected on proceedings.
But he was just happy to take the three points and start looking towards the Valley Parade trip.
Said Grayson: “It was another clean sheet, a vital three points at this stage of the season.
“We were fully aware beforehand how tough a game this was going to be because of how Rochdale play with energy and tempo.
“Ultimately, we came through with another clean sheet and three points added to our tally.
“In an ideal world you would win the game and play really well. We just did what we had to do to win a football match.
“Rochdale pass it quickly and in the first half we probably didn’t get close enough to them and play from the shape of our team.
“We tweaked a couple of things here and there and it worked.
“We knew Rochdale would have a lot of possession but I thought we had the better opportunities.
“Scott Laird’s strike – which forced a wonderful save from their keeper – Daniel Johnson missing the free-kick and Joe Garner’s header were all good chances.
“We needed to try and get a second goal because the last few minutes were getting a bit anxious.
“We saw it out but need to do a little bit better in the last few minutes.
“Rochdale pop it around and put the ball into areas where defenders and midfielders don’t want to go.
“Now the focus turns to Monday’s game at Bradford.
“We have got ourselves into a good position, there will be no complacency from our players and staff.
“Now we are in a good position, we have to work even harder to reach the target that we set ourselves in the summer.”