Sean Gregan exclusive column

Jermaine Beckford is congratulated by PNE boss Simon Grayson after his wonder strike
Jermaine Beckford is congratulated by PNE boss Simon Grayson after his wonder strike
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Jermaine Beckford’s goal on Sunday or mine for Preston North End against Norwich a few years back – which was best?

I will be cheeky and say mine was, although I’m bound to say that aren’t I!

Probably I was a bit closer in when I scored but it was with my left foot which I used for standing on, not having a pop at goal.

All jokes aside, Beckford’s shot from a few yards over the half-way line was a stunning finish and worthy of a higher stage .

It rounded off a great win and for me, there is no better strike force at this level than Beckford and Joe Garner.

Having strikers like them in the team made a massive difference over the two legs against Chesterfield.

Their quality in the final third – and beyond when you bear in mind where Beckford scored from – was something the Spirieites could not cope with. If you look back over the two legs, Chesterfield had a great deal more possession than North End did.

They did not have a natural finisher in their side though, and it was in both boxes where the important stats were.

A team can have as much of the ball as it wants but you have to do something with it.

The only thing that really mattered was Chesterfield 0, Preston 1 on Thursday, then PNE 3 Chesterfield 0, here at Deepdale.

Preston had too much for Chesterfield in attack and coped well with most of what the visitors chucked at them.

It is only half-a-job done for North End, with the Wembley final coming up on May 24.

I’m sure the players were allowed to have a pint or two on Sunday night to let their hair down a bit.

But after a day or two off, it will be back to the hard work for the squad.

It is vital that whoever they play in the final – Swindon or Sheffield United – North End go and play the game and not the occasion.

I think back to the 2001 play-off final against Bolton Wanderers at the Millennium Stadium and we probably got drawn into the occasion more than we should have.

I’m sure Simon Grayson will have them fully focused over the coming days.

Talking about the 2001 play-off final, there were quite a few of us from that side at Sunday’s game.

Jon Macken, David Lucas, Paul McKenna, Michael Jackson, Michael Appleton, Lee Cartwright and Rob Edwards were there.

I had not seen Rob since the day I left Preston in July 2002 but straight away on Sunday we were having the banter which we used to have all those years ago.

A few of the lads went on the pitch at half-time and you might be thinking where I was.

Nothing sinister – I nipped to the toilet and when I came back they were all down there being introduced to the crowd!

I wasn’t going to run down the steps saying ‘wait for me’ so I went to the Great Room to chat with some of the fans.

We had all been in there before the game doing a quick turn and it is always great to come back to Deepdale and chat about the old times.

I hope that a new era of Championship football is just around the corner for North End.

If the defence can stay as tight and dogged as it has been at Wembley and Beckford and Garner can fire on the day, I see no reason why Preston cannot give it a right go.

Yes, it was disappointing what happened at Colchester the week before.

But at least PNE have come back fighting and got through the semi-finals.