• Phil Wrightson

Middlesbrough 1-2 Preston: Match report

For the second time in four days Middlesbrough sacrificed a lead in a game they dominated, this time contriving to lose against a limited Preston North End who will have been delighted with their gift-wrapped three points.

Boro had looked comfortable after Paddy McNair’s bullet header gave them the lead in the first half and then let a series of chances go begging before Preston substitute, Ched Evans headed home late on. Preston then won the game after a terrible mistake from Sol Bamba gave Emil Riis Jakobsen the freedom of the Riverside to smash home.

Chris Wilder named an unchanged side from the team that started Saturday’s frustrating draw with Millwall. Preston started confidently knocking the ball around without threatening the home side’s goal. Boro’s first opportunity came when Marcus Tavernier lined up a free kick on the right but his delivery was disappointing. Boro warmed to the task and a clever pass from Marc Bola found Matt Crooks on the edge of the D and only a last-minute block stopped his goal-bound attempt. Tavernier then flashed a cross towards Duncan Watmore which the striker only just failed to connect with.

The breakthrough came when Jonny Howson, taking over corner duties, delivered a beautiful cross which Paddy McNair met with his head, the ball crashing into the net off the bar. This gave Boro confidence and on a number of occasions they used the width of the pitch to pass the ball around, stretching North End; perhaps the first time the fans have seen Chris Wilder’s vision of how he wants his team to play. One of these moves culminated in Watmore’s shot being clawed away from under the bar by Preston keeper, Daniel Iversen. Boro went in to half-time a goal up although they could perhaps count themselves fortunate that two strong-looking penalty appeals were rejected after clumsy challenges from Tavernier and Isaiah Jones.

Boro started the second period where they left off with Andraz Sporar doing well to hold the ball up, the ball working its way to Lee Peltier who cut inside and smashed a shot against the bar. McNair’s flighted free kick then looked to be heading into the top corner before being well stopped by Iversen who then had to stop strikes from Sporar and substitute Onel Hernandez to keep his side in the game.

Preston had not looked likely to score and it was therefore a surprise when Evans climbed highest to head home a 77th minute corner and worse was to come four minutes later. Tavernier’s goal-bound shot form 12 yards appeared to be handled by a North End defender but the referee waved his appeals away. Preston then broke quickly and Bamba looked to have defused the situation with an intelligent interception. However, the ex-Cardiff man then inexplicably played the ball straight into the heel of McNair who was standing in front of him, the ball rebounding to Jakobsen who sidestepped Bamba and finished confidently.

Preston were allowed to manage the game confidently to a close with Boro appearing shell-shocked and players and fans alike will wonder how they came away empty-handed from a game they would be disappointed with had they only taken a point.

Boro visit Huddersfield on Saturday and will need to show more discipline and ruthlessness in front of goal to secure Chris Wilder’s first game in charge.

Be sure to tune in to the latest Boro Breakdown podcast for all your matchday chatter in a pod, which you can find here.

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