JERMAINE Beckford has been warned by Dougie Freedman that he must “catch up” after a hamstring injury left him behind in the fitness stakes.

Wanderers’ top scorer has been missing since limping out of a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest and was forced to abandon a handful of comeback attempts during the course of February and early March.

Beckford had planned to make his big return against former club Leeds United last weekend only for it to prove another no-show.

A late bout of illness for Joe Mason in Tuesday night’s draw at Derby presented another chance – but again Beckford was overlooked, and Freedman played Lukas Jutkiewicz as a lone striker at the iPro Stadium.

Now, Freedman has revealed the reasons behind the former Everton striker’s absence and why he is now challenging his summer signing to get back into the reckoning.

“Jermaine is training with us every day but to get him right up to speed for a game, he needs to be in top, top condition,” he told The Bolton News.

“It has frustrated me a bit because the last thing I want to do is put him in there and he’s not right.

“I could draw confidence from what we did with David Wheater, and throw him straight in, but my experience tells me that when you do that and someone doesn’t play as well as he should, you know the reasons and you’re pulling your hair out.”

Beckford has been back in full training since last week, when Freedman indicated he would be in contention for a place in the squad at his old stomping ground, Elland Road.

Between the manager making that statement on Thursday and the day of the game, however, there was a change of heart. And Beckford was nowhere to be seen in the 5-1 rout.

Freedman admits the severity of his hamstring injury has set him back several weeks, and the Whites boss refuses to risk throwing his eight-goal marksman in without being fully prepared.

“He’s not as fit as he was in pre-season – so the question is do we chuck him in, or get him that fit again?” he said.

“It all stems from that original hamstring injury. The first two weeks he just couldn’t get moving.

“For two weeks he was sat still and at 30 years of age you cannot afford to do that without it catching up with you.”