JERMAINE Beckford believes Wanderers could have been a lot closer to the play-off picture had they been able to call on Lukas Jutkiewicz’s services longer.

While hopes of signing the Middlesbrough striker on a permanent basis this summer were cooled earlier this week by Dougie Freedman, Beckford is still holding out hope the 24-year-old will be able to stay on at the Reebok in some capacity next season.

Freedman had been talking to Boro about Jutkiewicz for several weeks before his arrival in January and had originally planned to bring him in before Christmas.

And Beckford reckons that the impact his fellow front man has made since swapping Teesside for the North West should make him a priority this summer if a deal can be agreed.

“He’s been something I personally think we could have done with a lot sooner,” he told The Bolton News. “He would have made a difference to us.

“It was one of those things – he wasn’t available earlier in the season but once we did get him, he’s been fantastic.

“Hopefully, we’ll still be able to do something in the summer, fingers-crossed.”

Jutkiewicz again led the line for Wanderers in last night’s 1-0 home defeat by Leicester at the Reebok Stadium with Beckford joining him as a half-time substitute.

The pair first played together at Everton, albeit for a short spell in 2010, and Beckford reckons Jutkiewicz’s combative style brings out the best in his own game.

“He was exactly the same back then (at Everton) – he’s a very strong guy and he brings other players into play really well,” the former Leicester striker said.

“That makes the guys around him, especially myself, enjoy the game that much more because you know that the pressure is not on you to fight a couple of defenders, bring the ball down and then put the ball in the top corner.

“He’s a fantastic player and I love playing with him.”