Middlesbrough v Preston North End – Up to the players to entice fans back, says Jonathan Woodgate

Middlesbrough's Daniel Ayala: Set to return.
Middlesbrough's Daniel Ayala: Set to return.
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WITH Middlesbrough being nine points and 17 places below where they were at the corresponding juncture last season, the prevailing wind on Teesside is a decidedly chilly one.

After nine Championship games of 2018-19, Boro were joint leaders alongside Leeds United, but now they are looking over their shoulders in 19th place, with rookie manager Jonathan Woodgate likely to be further exposed to the elements should his side disappoint again tonight.

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate. Picture: Darren Staples/PA

Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate. Picture: Darren Staples/PA

After a lousy weekend, Woodgate is assigned with picking up his Boro side for tonight’s game against a dangerous Preston side who head to the Riverside Stadium on the back of a six-match unbeaten streak in the second tier.

Daniel Ayala and Jonathan Howson are likely to start against North End, with reverting to a three-man central defence likely to be a sensible option in the wake of Boro’s weekend mauling against Sheffield Wednesday.

Much may have been made of Woodgate’s desire to transform Boro’s playing style, but a concession of 13 goals so far this season – it took until December 1 last season for the Teessiders to concede that many – represents a pertinent concern.

But Woodgate insists he is just as concerned with style issues and he has no issue with fans who have been critical of the fare on offer so far – and those who are voting with their feet.

I cannot blame the fans. I am not going to start doing that and pleading with them to say: ‘you have got to come.’ We need to start playing good football for them to come, it is as simple as that.

Jonathan Woodgate

He said: “I cannot blame the fans.

“I am not going to start doing that and pleading with them to say: ‘you have got to come.’

“We need to start playing good football for them to come, it is as simple as that.”

Last six games: Middlesbrough WDDWLL; Preston DDWWLD.

Referee: D England (South Yorkshire).

Last time: Middlesbrough 1 Preston 2, March 13, 2019; Championship.