Preston find way past flagging Boro

14 February 2024 0 By Total Football News

Preston moved to within goal difference of the Sky Bet Championship play-offs after beating Middlesbrough 2-1 to claim a third consecutive win.

Emil Riis scored the winner in the 60th minute after Finn Azaz’s superb strike cancelled out Liam Millar’s first-half opener.

The victory secures a vital three points for Preston on a night when the club marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Sir Tom Finney with a rousing seventh-minute applause.

The visitors started well and nearly took the lead in the 11th minute, when Sam Greenwood’s deflected shot forced a good save out of Freddie Woodman after an interception from defender Greg Cunningham – an early substitute for the injured Andrew Hughes – fell into his path.

The pressure kept on building thereafter and it was completely against the run of play that the Lilywhites, sporting a special edition kit in memory of Finney, went in front in the 23rd minute.

Millar brought down Matt Clarke’s attempted clearance with his right foot and fired a left-footed shot past Tom Glover from just outside the box.

Leeds loanee Greenwood came close to equalising just beyond the half-hour mark, but his well-struck effort from distance went narrowly wide.

Shortly after the half-time interval, January signing Azaz’s attempt deflected wide as Boro continued to push for the leveller.

And it arrived through the same player in the 57th minute, opening his account for the club with a rocket of a shot into the top corner from 20 yards out.

Boro soon found themselves behind again, though, with Riis tapping home on the hour-mark – his sixth goal in as many games for Preston against Boro – after Will Keane’s shot fell very kindly to him.

Michael Carrick’s side did not let their heads drop and came close to equalising once more moments later, with captain Jonny Howson’s attempt only being directed off target by a defensive header.

Woodman had to be alert again in the 70th minute to keep out Marcus Forss’ volley from close range.

Luke Thomas worked space for a shot inside the final 10 minutes, but the Leicester loanee dragged his attempt past the post and that proved to be their last real opportunity.

Preston are now in ninth place on 48 points – level with sixth-placed Coventry, seventh-placed Norwich and eighth-placed Hull – while Boro are seven points back.

The managers

Preston’s Ryan Lowe:

“It did give us extra motivation (the anniversary). “We wanted to have a bit of a celebration because I think that’s what it was, we wanted to show the family and our fans what we can do.

“It was important that we got a win on the back of that because there can be too much pressure on it.

“I’ve obviously got to be mindful of the fact that we have a game to play and try and win and it was a great occasion.

“We kept it simple, we knew what we were here to do, we respected the occasion and I think we’ve sent the Finney family and all of our fans home happy.”

Middlesbrough’s Michael Carrick:

“I think it’s a tough result to take for sure. I think the results definitely aren’t going our way. I thought tonight we definitely deserved an awful lot more from the game.

“But we’re not getting it, so we need to accept that and we’ve got to do something about it.

“I can’t fault the boys in terms of effort. Some of the quality of the play was really, really good, but we’ve definitely not got the balance between performance and results at the moment.

“They hadn’t had a touch in our box and we were 1-0 down today. That was the only time they’d gone up there.

“It’s happened probably two or three times over the last six weeks or so. With that, there’s a lot of good things.

“There’s a lot of good things in the game, but those moments are going against us and we have to accept that and we’ve got to do something about it.”

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