Boro Make it Happy New Year with Win at Preston
By Robert Nichols
Thursday 02 Jan 2020 10:41:00
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It was a very Happy New Year for all Boro fans celebrating at the final whistle at Deepdale. And doubtless for all listening back at home. Boro followed a first away win of the season by inflicting a 2-0 defeat on high-flying Preston North End. A reward for Jonathan Woodgate's bold team selection bringing in Rudy Gestede for a rare start and the big man cracked home the opener, assisted the second and could have had a couple more goals from an outstanding display. But we were good all over the park, only the injury to Ayala cast any sort of a shadow on a New Year's Day when Boro walked tall.

Boro fans were greeted by a surprise team selection when Boro head coach changed the winning formula from West Brom, Coulson and Wing were replaced by Johnson and Rudy Gestede. Definitely not like for like. It turned out to be a master stroke as the big man played a blinder up front and Marvin Johnson put in a real shift at left wing back.

Preston had the best home record in the division before the festive season and were looking to bounce back from a 2-0 defeat at Deepdale with a win over the normally travel sick Boro. But Boro were in no mood to roll over and we picked up from where we left off at the Hawthorns to get our noses in front before half time.

We didn't pile into the attack from the off this time. Even after changes, the core of the team would be feeling the demands of the Christmas/New Year games in their legs. Yet with Ayala, Fry and Howson outstanding at the back and Saville and Clayton power houses in the midfield battleground Boro had a platform to hurt Preston on the break.

It was a real blow when Ayala went down and had to limp from the field. He looks like a man mountain at present and with the experienced David Nugent leading Preston's attacking forces this could have been the chink in the armour they were waiting for. Yet it was Boro that struck first.

Fry kept a set-piece alive at the back post and Gestede hooked the ball over his head and into the net for 1-0. It was his first goal in an eternity and how he and we celebrated. RUDY RUDY RUDY...

Paddy McNair was handed the Ayala role with Howson and Fry pitching in even more in the middle. Preston came on strong at the end of the half. In time added on before half time it was backs to the wall and all hands to the pumps as Boro defended corner after corner and pulled everyone back to get to the safety of the referee's time out whistle.

Preston made changes to sharpen their attack before the second period. Could Boro possibly hold out another half?

That was the worry going into that second period yet the Boro team had other ideas, they were going to hit out at the home team and hurt them. We were now nothing short of devastating on the break. Preston simply could not get to grips with big Rudy at all. Fletcher was as slippery as an eel. Tav, Johnson and Djed Spence all just too quick for North End. The killer second goal came from Rudy winning a header, only a defensive interception prevented Fletcher speeding away with the ball but the intervention took it past his own keeper. 2-0.

Boro might easily have scored more, many more. Tav made a wonderful darting run which ended with him sliding the ball across to Rudy who tested the keeper with a real stinger. Howson volleyed narrowly wide. McNair, so strong at the back made a rare move forward and his cross shot was clawed away from under the cross bar. Gestede had a headed chance and posed a threat throughout.

The football we were playing for the central part of the second half was scintillating. Coulson came on for Djed Spense, playing at right wing back and continued the pace attack. Preston did not know what had hit them. We were picking up from where we left off at the Hawthorns and once again playing the kind of football that we haven't seen since Luton away on the first game of the season.

Everyone celebrated together at the final whistle, players, coaching staff and fans. Leo – Leo – Leo. Big Rudy Rudy Rudy - Gestede. The phenomenal Jonny Howson, what a performance again and what a season, no matter what position he is playing in. Howson really does deserve his own chant. Fletcher is flying. Credit to Saville and Clayton, battling tops through the midfield minefield. Fry stepped forward when Ayala went off and was so strong. As for McNair, who knew he could play so well in the centre of defence? Pears – one of our own and looking every inch the first team keeper. Hats off to Woodgate for being so brave in not only changing a winning team but changing a winning way.

What a New Year's Day from Boro with so much promise. 2020 could well be the reward for all those that held their nerve through the darker times of 2019.

Happy New Year

Preston 0-2 Middlesbrough – Gestede, own goal (Fletcher claiming it)

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