Club Focus – Everton – Beckford marks his adjustment to Premier League with goal at Wolves

Seamus Coleman may have been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year on Friday, and the young Irishman may also be a shoot-in for Everton’s own version of the award, but if there was a gong handed out for the Toffees’ most improved player of the year Coleman would not be considered. Instead, Jermaine Beckford would be the only deserving contender.

Beckford, who opened the scoring for Everton in their 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, has gone from strength to strength in his debut season in the Premier League, and he now stands with four goals in his last seven games. It was a slow start for the former Leeds United striker, who failed to score a league goal until November – some seven games into his top flight career. Since opening his Premier League account in stunning fashion against Bolton Wanderers – with a 94th minute equaliser that found the top corner from a tight angle – Beckford has netted nine times across all competitions, a more than decent return for a player making the step up from League One.

Beckford’s desire to impress occasionally led to moments he would likely rather forget, such as the wild challenge on Newcastle United goalkeeper Steven Harper that left Beckford with a booking and Harper with a dislocated shoulder. There were also the too common lapses of control that told of Beckford’s lower league past and an inability to stay onside, a cardinal sin for a striker who relies so much on pace. Beckford’s initial struggles were part of Everton’s initial struggles, and the floundering of the team magnified the forward’s toil, but his rough beginning was a result rather than a cause of Everton’s early season disappointment. With a team firing on all cylinders Beckford would have had service to suit him and support from his teammates. What he got was uninspired football and senior players in dereliction of their duty.

Part of Beckford’s slow acclimatisation to life at Everton was tactical. Usually deployed as a lone striker, the turning point for Beckford arguably came when he was partnered with Saha for only the third time of the season, against Sunderland in February, scoring twice. The finishes were not classic, scuffing twice past the Mackems’ goalkeeper, but Beckford had made a vital contribution to an Everton league victory for the first time – his prior goals came in draws and against Blackpool, when Saha’s four-goal haul took the headlines. The brace against Sunderland proved to the doubters – and perhaps Beckford himself – that he did belong at this level, and since then he has gone from bit-part player to leading the line.

Ironically, the goal against Wolves was Beckford’s first since the double that sank Sunderland but his all-round performances have improved greatly, even without scoring. There is now an impressive amount of finesse about his play, and the deft header that sent Everton on the way to victory at Molineux was the stuff of an experienced Premier League goal-getter. David Moyes will still search for another striker this summer, but it will be to assist Beckford, not replace him.

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