Beckford targets goal gong

Jermaine Beckford moves to tackle Middlesbroughs Ben Gibson
Jermaine Beckford moves to tackle Middlesbroughs Ben Gibson
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Preston North End striker Jermaine Beckford has made the final five in the voting for the Football League Awards’ goal of the year.

Beckford’s 50-yard shot in last May’s play-off semi-final second leg against Chesterfield was put forward by PNE as their best goal of 2015.

It made a 10-strong shortlist which went out to a public vote last month.

That vote, which closed last Friday, put Beckford’s stunning finish in the top five.

The overall winner will be announced at the Football League Awards in Manchester on Sunday, with there being an audience vote on the night.

Beckford is up against goals from Kemar Roofe (Oxford), Michael Duckworth (Hartlepool), Danny Williams (Reading) and Marco Matias (Sheffield Wednesday).

The goal of the year award is one of 10 trophies which will be handed out at the awards ceremony.

North End’s young keeper Matt Hudson is on the shortlist for the Football League’s apprentice of the year.

If Beckford wins, it would make it a Preston double in that category.

Last year, Joe Garner won the award for his volley in the 2014 play-offs against Rotherham.

Beckford is gradually working his way back to full match fitness after missing much of the season with a knee injury.

The 32-year-old has come on as a substitute in the last four games, PNE boss Simon Grayson not wanting to rush him and risk a set-back.

He got his longest run-out to date at Middlesbrough on Saturday, joining the action in the 62nd minute in place of Callum Robinson.

Last Tuesday night against Fulham, he played from the 67th minute, while his two appearances in the Blackburn and Queens Park Rangers games were brief ones.

Beckford has not managed to steer clear of mischief since his return – he has been booked in three of the games.

He was one of four players yellow carded during stoppage time of the QPR match. Then against Fulham and Boro, he went into the book following clashes with the respective goalkeepers.

Beckford is edging closer to a start, Grayson observing last week that the frontman’s fitness and sharpness was improving with every training session.

For him to be able to start a game this season would be a big psychological boost after missing so much of the campaign.

There are five games left for Beckford to force his way into starting contention, the first of those against MK Dons at Deepdale on Saturday.

They go to Birmingham next Tuesday, before hosting Burnley three nights later in a televised clash.

North End go to Reading on April 30, before the season ends on May 7 with a home clash against Leeds.

The Leeds game is one Beckford will want to be involved in, having scored 85 goals in 152 appearances for them earlier in his career.

His form at Elland Road saw him get a chance in the Premier League, with Everton signing him in the summer of 2010.