Jermaine Beckford says he feels ‘blessed’ to be back playing football and was delighted to score his first Preston North End goal since Wembley in the draw with MK Dons.
The striker only returned to action last month after surgery to repair a serious knee injury and Saturday’s start was his first this season.
He took only six minutes to get on the scoresheet, latching on to an Eoin Doyle header to run clear and find the net.
It was a lead North End held until nine minutes into what proved a very disappointing second half, Nicky Maynard pulling MK level.
The big story of the game came late on when visiting keeper Cody Cropper was sent-off for bringing down Doyle in the box.
With all their substitutes used, striker Alex Revell put on the gloves and saved the resulting penalty from Joe Garner.
Beckford was off the pitch by then, 65 minutes suffice for him while he regains his match sharpness.
Having been affected by the injury since pre-season, his return is being carefully managed by the PNE staff.
“It has been eight-and-a-half months of frustration, hard work and determination but ultimately I’m back doing what I love,” Beckford told the Evening Post.
“I take every game as it comes and I feel blessed to be out on the field as part of the team and squad.
“Last summer, I had no idea that the injury would end up keeping me out for so long.
“I had been playing with it for a little while and I started strapping my knee up under my sock to try and mask the discomfort.
“I was thinking that it was only pre-season so if something was wrong, it would not be anything major.
“In the end I thought let’s go and get it checked out, see where we go from there.
“Unfortunately, it was a lot worse than what we thought.
“I’ve had quite extensive work done but I feel very good now, I feel confident and don’t notice it when I’m out there on the pitch.
“I’m getting fitter but there is no fitness like match fitness.
“You can do all the training in the world, all the running your body can handle.
“But when you are out on the field, adrenaline kicks in and you have to learn how to manage that.
“I want to play as many minutes as I can but be cautious as well because I don’t want a setback which would rule me out for the beginning of next season.”
Beckford felt that PNE had enough chances to build on his early goal and win the game.
He said: “If you don’t put your chances away, you will get punished and that happened.
“We had a lot of really good chances and we should have walked away with the win.
“They had the great save from the penalty, you couldn’t write that.
“The keeper gets sent-off, they put Alex Revell in goal and he pulls off probably the best penalty save I have ever seen.”