The Build Up: Boro vs Preston
Boro come into the game on the back of a 3-0 victory over Stoke City. Despite a slow start, Warnock switched up the same system and Boro weathered the storm to ensure all the three points remained on Teesside. A first Boro goal for Nathaniel Mendez-Laing will have delighted everyone at the club. The winger capped off an impressive performance for Middlesbrough after goals from Grant Hall and Paddy McNair gave the Reds a healthy lead.
It was pleasing to see Grant Hall extend his goalscoring form after making his return from injury. However, it was Paddy McNair who ran the show on Saturday, with the Northern Irishman popping up all over the pitch. His well-taken goal topped a brilliant display. McNair’s was most impacted by the switch in formation just 15 minutes into the game, as Boro reverted to a 4-3-3 with McNair pushing into midfield from defence – a change which Warnock will be grinning over.
The negative for Boro on Saturday was that Djed Spence was forced off, however Warnock was quick to downplay any major injury. Both Spence and Darnell Fisher are struggling for full fitness, ahead of Tuesday’s game. Warnock claimed in his pre-match presser that the latter won’t be rushed back after suffering an Achilles injury.
Warnock also claimed that both Ashley Fletcher and Marcus Tavernier have returned to full fitness, however won’t be ready for Tuesday night’s game, but is hopeful they will feature before the international break.
After making a Championship TOTW appearance, Yannick Bolasie is expected to start once again, alongside Neeskans Kebano and Chuba Akpom, should Neil Warnock keep trust in the side that ran out 3-0 winners. With fitness in mind, changes wouldn’t be surprising, with Marvin Johnson, Britt Assombalonga and Duncan Watmore all on the fringes of the starting 11, for different reasons.
Fellow TOTW appearance maker, Marcus Bettinelli, will be all too pleased with his performance between the sticks. Bettinelli should take confidence after impressing against Stoke, in what was a much-needed improved performance from the on-loan Fulham goalkeeper.
Preston are having a disappointing season and sit 15th in the league. The Lilywhites have struggled for a run of form since their positive Christmas period. Last time out, North End were on the wrong end of a run-ending result as bottom of the league Wycombe Wanderers ended their four losses in a row to beat Alex Neil’s side 1-0.
Scott Sinclair leads the goalscoring charts for Preston, with nine goals this term. The winger signed from Celtic last January and has scored 12 goals since his return to Lancashire. Preston boast Connor Ripley in their ranks. The keeper came through the Boro academy and finds himself at Deepdale, where he plays second fiddle behind Declan Rudd.
The Lilywhites have pace on the break, which Boro will have to be wary of. Their front three of Sean Maguire, Scott Sinclair and Tom Barkhuizen, in particular, all have the speed that defenders hate to come up against. The versatile Alan Browne has been a mainstay in the Preston team for years, and often deputised at right back in place of Darnell Fisher, now at Boro, prior to the loan capture of Sepp van den Berg. The tenacious midfielder is capable of popping up with a goal or two.
The two sides met in December, and Preston blew Boro out of the water with a dominant second-half display. Goals from Brad Potts, Scott Sinclair and Emil Riis Jakobsen handed North End a 3-0 victory, with the only saving grace for Boro being that it wasn’t more. The Lancashire side ran riot at Deepdale and should have scored more than the three.
The two sides have met on 102 occasions, with Boro boasting the better head-to-head record.
Boro wins: 46
Preston Wins: 31