Preston North End boss Simon Grayson was happy with his side’s performance in their Championship opener against Middlesbrough at Deepdale.
The Lilywhites more than matched Boro – who are the bookies’ favourites for promotion - in the goalless draw.
Aside from Grant Leadbitter’s first-half shot, where the Boro captain dragged an attempt wide after driving into the area courtesy of a one-two with Kike, North End were rarely troubled.
Grayson said: “I thought the players worked extremely hard, carried out the game-plan and on another day we could quite easily have had a couple of goals.
“We’ve limited Middlesbrough to I don’t think a shot on target, which is some achievement given the players they’ve got.
“Overall, I’m really satisfied with a really professional performance but also some good quality at times.”
Grayson picked out John Welsh for praise, the PNE midfielder doing a fine marking job on Boro’s £5.5m summer signing Stewart Downing.
Downing was called up to the England squad less than 12 months ago but he experienced a quiet afternoon in a number-10 role after being marshalled expertly by Welsh.
“Welshy goes unnoticed sometimes,” Grayson said.
“We made a real concious effort to make sure he stopped Stewart Downing to start with because he’s a major threat.”
Aitor Karanka admitted Preston produced a better performance than his Middlesbrough side.
Karanka said: “I said before the game we would be making a big mistake if we think every game will be easy..
“They played very well and were very well organised defensively, and they wanted the ball more than us so we have to improve.
“I am not making excuses. I have a squad that I imagine is better than theirs and they played better than us.
“They were very well organised and we couldn’t play in our way.”
Boro’s lack of attacking thrust suggested their Spanish manager, who this week penned a new four-year contract at the Riverside, may need another forward if their top-flight dream is to be realised.
The Teesside outfit have already had one bid rejected for Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes after his 21-goal campaign in 2014-15 and Karanka conceded he remains in the hunt for a striker.
“Jordan Rhodes is one player who scores goals but we have other alternatives,” he declared.
“I don’t want to speak about Jordan Rhodes every press conference because he is not my player and I have to think about my players.”
Karanka then added: “We need players who will score goals. We have Kike and (Cristhian) Stuani and we need to bring in players who can score goals.
“Jordan is one name on the list and we have other ones. We have to make sure we get the right ones.”