By Robert Nichols
Wednesday 02 Oct 2019 11:00:00
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Boro did bounce back from Saturday's crushing defeat with a fighting draw against high flying Preston. It was a rain-lashed, half-deserted Riverside last night but those present witnessed a much-changed Boro respond to a Preston winner with a quick equaliser. We then stayed on level terms to the end of 4 minutes added on. Moreover, we looked far tighter in defence and competed all over the park. While still well short of the levels we glimpsed over the last two seasons, it was a good comeback from Boro.

Jonathan Woodgate made several changes from the side that capitulated in the first half hour at home to Sheff Wed. Shotton moved over to left back to allow Daniel Ayala to come in and stiffen the defences. The second half sub performance of Marcus Browne was one of the only positives on Saturday and the summer signing took a starting berth and looked the part. Playing to his right Marcus Tavernier made a first League start of the season as Ashley Fletcher was rested. Tav and Browne combined well in the set-up for the equaliser and both really acquitted themselves well.

This always looked like being a tall order, taking on a team that may have fallen two places themselves on Saturday but at the same time their draw reduced the gap to the top to only 2 points. It was a reality check as well because for once it was the team from the Lancashire city that started favourites.

Alex Neil's side have steadily progressed over recent seasons and could be a model for Boro to look to. With so many similarities between Preston and Middlesbrough, city and town and in size of club. Preston in general have had to sell a player or two, like Bristol City too, the team they drew with on Saturday yet the general trend for both clubs is on the up.

Having conceded two early own goals from corners I was surprised that Preston began tentatively and in fact it was Boro that made most of the early running. They seemed to be paying us a lot of respect and with Tav and Browne desperate to make an impact and McNair full of lung busting running we made plenty of headway.

Britt, had to get through a lot of running as target man and sole focus, the big striker did this well and set up a glorious chance but delayed too long. Marcus Browne struck a shot on the turn in the box but the stand-out early chance was when the marauding Dijksteel saw his cross rebound off the post onto Britt but end up narrowly missing the goal.

For Preston, their best early opportunity could have been denied them when Ayala went sliding in. The North Stand went silent but the referee did not blow. It was what you might call an eccentric display from the officials as throughout the games many a foul seemed to be overlooked or be given the wrong way around. It all helped stoke up the Boro crowd as feeling wronged, especially when challenges went through the back of Britt or a centre into the box appeared to be batted away by a Preston arm.

Just when we thought we had made it to half time without conceding, Preston struck. After smart build up work from the visitors, Alan Browne shot across Darren Randolph's goal and was unlucky to see his shot smack off the post. Where he and Preston were lucky was for the rebound to land at the feet of Josh Harrop whose anticipation was far greater than the flat-footed Boro defence and he tucked it home.

All credit to Boro as we replied almost immediately. Browne, McNair and Tav all combined with Tavernier pinging the ball across goal, where Darnell Fisher could only stop Britt from scoring by finishing himself. 1-1 half time.

There were chances for both sides after the break. Tav forced Preston keeper Declan Rudd to spring into action to deny his point blank effort. But Boro gave away two free kicks late doors that Preston squandered. Fortunately.

So, we cannot kid ourselves we are still well short of a promotion pushing side but at least we stopped the rot that might have festered after being hit for FOUR by Wednesday. We also caused a promotion contending side a pause for thought. We now travel to Birmingham on Friday hoping we can keep up the rebuilding process. Brum lost at struggling Wigan, can we capitalise at St Andrews.

Boro 1-1 Preson North End – Fisher (own goal)

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