Preston 4 Middlesbrough 1: Boro's fans turn up and contribute at Deepdale, but their players didn't

IT was a day when the oles were aired at Deepdale.

Unfortunately, it was from Preston's support and not Middlesbrough's following, magnificent that they were.

Their side failed to turn up and were beaten up by an Emile Riis' inspired North End, who secured their first double over Boro since 1971-72 - with the striker taking his tally to an impressive 20 this term with a devastating hat-trick

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He is just the sort of striker that Boro lack and the side who looked play-off contenders were in white, not red.

Deepdale, home of Preston North End.Deepdale, home of Preston North End.
Deepdale, home of Preston North End.

In the event, results elsewhere meant that even if Boro won, they would not have crept into the top six.

That won't be consolation for Chris Wilder, whose side went out by the back door and not the front as he demands in the event of any defeat.

He stood in his technical area with his arms folded, unamused, for the final quarter of this game as his supporters sang, seemingly oblivious to events.

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Boro's inspiration came via non-stop backing from their fans, which did not relent when Preston scored a fourth. But there was precious little on the pitch.

The day started with hope and one thing that Boro did not lack was support, with a huge 5,600 travelling army making their way over to Deepdale and pumping up the volume in the sun ahead of kick-off.

Unfortunately, despite the fuel provided by the Boro hordes, their side froze and were second best to a powerful, athletic and high-energy North End side who won battles galore and dominated against light-weight visitors.

Daniel Johnson, a player who Chris Wilder coveted in his time at Sheffield United, posed problems, as did Riis and Jordan Archer. The side who looked like they were chasing the play-offs were Preston and not Boro.

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A deflected shot from Riis, which was straight at Luke Daniels, hinted at danger after probing play from Johnson before Browne shot at the Boro custodian after more enterprise from Johnson.

The goal that had been coming arrived on 24 minutes when Brad Potts' cross from the right fell nicely for Alan Browne, who lashed home a clinical shot.

Preston had the ball in the net soon after when Daniels could not keep out a viciously swinging corner from Johnson, only for the goal to be penalised for a foul.

The respite was temporary.

The impressive Riis hoodwinked Boro's defence and saw his low shot take a deflection off Dael Fry before nestling in the net.

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Only a fine saving tackle from Anfernee Dijksteel prevented Johnson from getting a third before the interval while the impressive McCann also went close.

The Boro contingent needed something and thankfully it arrived soon after the restart when a moment of rare quality saw Dijksteel's right-wing cross pick out Marcus Tavernier, who headed in at the back stick.

In keeping with Boro's atrocious afternoon, the hope did last long.

Riley McGree was dispossessed far too softly and Preston countered in deadly fashion with Riis played in expertly by Archer before dinking a lovely finish past the onrushing Daniels.

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It was a huge blow for Boro, who, by way of response, saw Watmore's header parried acrobatically by home keeper Iversen, who then did brilliantly to block a point-effort from sub Flo Balogun.

At the other end, Whiteman went close before a fourth arrived when McNair was dismissed for handling Archer's goalbound shot and Riis sealed his hat-trick from the spot with a calm penalty.

Preston: Iversen; van den Berg, Diaby (Huntington 80), Lindsay; Whiteman (Ledson 86); Potts, McCann, Browne, Johnson; Riis (O'Neill 82), Archer. Substitutes unused: Ripley, Cunningham, Evans, Maguire.

Middlesbrough: Daniels; Dijksteel (Connolly 66), Fry, McNair; Jones, Crooks, Howson, McGree, Tavernier; Watmore (Balogun 62), Sporar (Coburn 62). Substitutes unused: Lumley, Peltier, Bamba, Bola.