Preston missed out on a chance to climb into the Championship’s top two after Middlesbrough hit back to claim a 1-1 draw at the Riverside.
Boro, closer to the relegation zone than they are to the top six, were the better team for much of the game but couldn’t make the most of the chances they created.
And it was Preston, during their best spell of the first half, who opened the scoring when Josh Harrop tapped in from close range in the 40th minute.
The lead lasted less than two minutes because North End full-back Darnell Fisher could only turn Paddy McNair’s low cross inside his own net to level things up – and that was how it remained.
Preston, who drew 3-3 with Bristol City to stay in a play-off places on Saturday are unbeaten in seven in the league, and headed to Teesside looking to win back-to-back games there for the first time since 1928.
Having succumbed 4-1 to Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend, Boro head coach Jonathan Woodgate made four changes including a recall for Jonny Howson and Daniel Ayala plus chances for Marcus Browne and Marcus Tavernier.
Woodgate’s decisions looked like it would have the desired effect because for the majority of the opening period Middlesbrough resembled the team sitting higher in the Championship.
But they failed to find the net and that allowed Preston to take the lead which they did with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Before that, Marcus Browne had a low drive stopped by the legs of goalkeeper Declan Rudd, while Britt Assombalonga couldn’t turn in a deep Paddy McNair cross that bounced off the back post and on to the striker.
Those two opportunities were the best either side had until Preston skipper Alan Browne’s header was cleared off the line by Adam Clayton, and two minutes later the visitors had the lead.
Browne was again involved. This time, after some strong work by Daniel Johnson, the midfielder’s deflected effort hit the inside of the post before rolling across goal for Harrop to tap in from close range.
The lead didn’t last long. Middlesbrough were quick to go on the offensive and when McNair got to the by-line, he drilled a low cross into the six-yard box where Fisher could only turn into his own net with Assombalonga close to him.
Middlesbrough created the best two opening early at the start of the second half. Tavernier had them both. The first was a simple save and the second saw Rudd jump high to tip over a first time effort from the winger.
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