Simon Grayson felt that Preston North End could be proud of their efforts against Championship side Middlesbrough despite bowing out of the Capital One Cup.
The Lilywhites were beaten 3-1 at the Riverside Stadium last night, with all the goals coming in a frantic spell early in the second half.
After falling behind to Lee Tomlin’s splendidly-struck free-kick – although harshly awarded in the first place – PNE were quickly back level thanks to Jordan Hugill’s first goal for the club.
But an unfortunate own goal from Tom Clarke and a Tomlin solo effort meant it was Boro who progressed to the third round.
PNE boss Grayson said: “I thought there were some performances and it was a good team display.
“The work rate was good, the shape and discipline of the team was good, and we were well and truly in the game for long spells.
“I think we can be proud of our performance as at one stage we had four or five lads under the age of 21 out there.
“They will have learned so much from that game.
“Ultimately we want to be playing sides like this every week next season.
“We gave a good account of ourselves last year in the cup games. Tonight we have done the same, we got beaten but were not disgraced.”
Grayson felt that North End could feel aggrieved by the awarding of the free-kick against them for the opening goal, John Welsh adjudged by referee Mark Haywood to have fouled Tomlin.
“It was a good free-kick but Mark has been big and brave enough to tell me in the tunnel that it wasn’t a free-kick and he should not have awarded it,” said Grayson.
“We came here with a game plan and I thought it worked very well for large parts.
“We kept the ball, frustrated them and limited them to few opportunities for long spells.
“If anything we probably had the best opportunity in the first half when the ball came to Will Hayhurst but he slipped at the wrong time.”
The goal for Hugill was special, the Middlesbrough-born striker scoring at the ground where he used to have a season ticket.
He played down the middle with support from Hayhurst and Scott Laird out wide.
Grayson said: “Jordan did really well at the weekend and I felt he had earned the opportunity to play against the team he supports.
“He led the line really well and was a handful for the two centre-halves.
“The lad got his rewards with the goal and he won’t forget tonight for a long time.
“Jordan has grasped an opportunity he has been given, first by Port Vale and than by us.
“He will get better, his fitness levels are still down because he hasn’t played a lot of first-team football, but he is doing well.
“We picked a team to go and still try and win the game while protecting the players who we want available for the weekend.
“Saturday is the most important game this week.
“It would have been nice to win it but we gave a good account of ourselves.”