Beckford gives Preston upper hand


Published: Thursday 7th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Preston put the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion behind them with a 1-0 victory at Chesterfield in the League One play-off semi-final first leg.

Jermaine Beckford scored the only goal of the game early on for the team who surrendered second spot on the final day of the regular season.

The goal came during Preston’s only real spell of sustained pressure, while Chesterfield could not make the most of the numerous occasions they were on top and it was a frustrating night of near-misses for Paul Cook’s side, who are looking for back-to-back promotions after winning League Two 12 months ago.

There was no sign of a hangover after Sunday’s defeat at Colchester as Preston began brightly and confidently, and they took the lead after six minutes.

Joe Garner cleverly stepped over Chris Humphrey’s in-field pass, leaving his strike partner Beckford with a clear path to goal. Beckford was coolness personified and casually chipped his shot past Tommy Lee.

Preston finished the regular campaign 20 points in front of Chesterfield and early on it showed.

Only a superb sliding challenge from Sam Hird to repel a goal-bound Garner effort prevented the Spireites from falling further behind.

Chesterfield survived the early onslaught without being breached further and finally got a foothold in the game, with Tom Clarke bravely blocking a Gary Roberts shot.

Roberts and Paul Gallagher tangled after 27 minutes. Roberts appeared to grab his opponent by the throat as both players attempted the get up from the ground and a melee ensued involving men from both sides.

The incident got the home crowd going and their team seemed to respond.

A sustained spell of Chesterfield pressure followed and there were near-misses for Roberts and Gardner, but the run of the ball inside the Preston box was favouring the visitors.

At the other end, Gallagher should have done better than drag his shot wide after being played in by Beckford down the left side of the penalty area.

The half-time whistle would have come as a relief for Preston, but Chesterfield picked up in the second half where they had left off.

Roberts showed quick feet and a turn of pace to get past his man inside the area and his left-footed shot across goal skidded narrowly wide.

There was a scare for Chesterfield midway through the second half when Beckford got free inside the box and forced Lee into an awkward-looking save. The Spireites goalkeeper hobbled around his area for the next few minutes before going down to receive treatment.

With no back-up on the bench, home hearts were in mouths, but Lee eventually got to his feet to continue.

Preston counterpart Sam Johnstone pushed away another effort from Roberts, but Chesterfield’s big chance was still to come – and they could not take it.

Sam Clucas whipped a cross in from the left and Ollie Banks, only just on as a substitute, arriving at the far post could only prod the ball over the crossbar from six yards out.

Simon Grayson’s side held on and take a slender lead to Deepdale for Sunday’s second leg.

Published: Thursday 7th May 2015 by The News Editor

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