Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick heaps praise on injury-hit squad for getting job done against Preston North End
The Lilywhites, who started the evening sixth, had no answer to Boro’s first-half display that earned them a three-goal advantage at the break.
Preston struggled to make an impact in the final third and were cut open too easily by the home side, who won 4-0 and closed the gap to the Championship play-off zone to three points.
Middlesbrough winger Isaiah Jones’ calmly-taken double in the 16th and 37th minutes sandwiched Rav van den Berg’s first senior goal in the 26th minute after he scored from a corner.
Even though the points had already been secured at half-time, Middlesbrough full-back Alex Bangura curled in from just inside the area to make it 4-0 in the fourth minute of added-time at the end of the contest.
And Carrick, whose side head to fourth-placed Leeds on Saturday, said: “We played well in spells, that’s football. Performance-wise we have played better in some games, but goals at both ends tell the story.
“We were ruthless, we created and defended very well in terms of limiting them. It was a new back four who hadn’t played together before, they played well.
“We will definitely take 4-0. I can’t fault the boys, sometimes it will work and sometimes it might go against us.
“I was confident going into the game, there was good balance even if it was quite new in terms of the changes. I thought we were in good shape and that proved to be the case.
“We lost Dael Fry and Hayden Hackney (groin and hamstring injuries) from Saturday, it tends to be the way we are going. We had eight senior players out tonight.
“That’s why the squad is vital and we can’t make excuses. The boys cracked on and we are now preparing for Saturday.”