Match report: PNE 0 Middlesbrough 0

PNE v Middlesbrough
PNE v Middlesbrough
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Preston North End opened the new Championship season with a well earned 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough.

In an entertaining game - played in front of a crowd of nearly 16,000 - PNE gave as good as they got against the highly-fancied Teessiders.

Aitor Karanka’s men finished fourth last season and were beaten in the play-off final by Norwich at Wembley.

They are many people’s tips to win promotion to the Premier League, but the home side more than held their own - and had their chances to win it

It was the home side who had the first sight on goal when Joe Garner forced George Friend into giving away a corner in the sixth minute.

From the ensuing deadball, Paul Gallagher picked out Bailey wright, who sprung free of his marker but he failed to connect with his header and the ball flashed across goal.

Three minutes later, Borro should have opened the scoring when Grant Leadbitter fired inexplicably wide of the near post with only keeper Jordan Pickford to beat.

The visiting skipper had worked the position superbly by playing a brilliant one-two with Kike, before sidestepping Huntington but failed to open the scoring.

George Friend then had home fans’ hearts in their mouths when he embarked on mazy run from the left.

He evaded Tom Clarke’s tackle, but chose to square the ball to Kike instead of shooting and Huntington managed to make the interception.

Middlesbrough central defender Daniel Ayala was lucky to stay on the pitch in the 23rd minute when he appeared to strike out at Garner off the ball.

North End loanee Will Keane looked like he had handed North End the lead five minutes later when Dimi Konstantopolous’ punch from Gallagher’s free-kick landed at his feet on the edge of the box.

The striker arrowed his shot through a ruck of players, but the ball was cleared off the line by Friend.

A minute later Joe Garner looked like he had a good shout for a penalty when he appeared to be wrestled to the ground by Friend.

The PNE marsksman then picked himself up and saw his shot smothered by Konstantopolous.

Just before half time, North End threatened when left-back Greg Cunningham - signed from Bristol City over the summer crossed from the left, but Keane was unable to connect from his near post header.

The home side made a fast start after the break and Marnick Vermijl, who arrived at Deepdale this week from Sheffield Wednesday, got to the by-line after 46 minutes but his pull-back evaded both Garner and Keane in the six yeard box.

Shortly after Konstantopolous had to be alert to save at the feet of Keane when it appeared the youngster was clean through on goal.

Pickford then had to tip Kike’s header around the post on 50 minutes after Albert Adomah’s strong run and cross from the right.

North End midfielder John Welsh then produced a last-ditch tackle in the 70th minute to thwart Adomah after the Boro man had been released by substitute Diego Fabrini.

The game threatened to boil over four minutes later when a number of crunching tackles resulted in a melee involving a number of players from both sides on the half-way line.

Referee Chris Kavanagh decided not to take any action apart from award a free-kick to Preston.

And from the resulting deadball, Garner fired a speculative overhead kick over the bar.

Stewart Downing’s drive from outside the area did not trouble Pickford in the 82nd minute.

Both teams then had terrific opportunities to win it at the death.

In the 89th minute, Adomah look certain to score but his low drive was brilliantly blocked by a combination of Tom Clarke and Paul Huntington.

Then almost immediately down the other end, Garner headed wide from six yards after Cunningham had delivered a peach of a cross from the left.

PNE: Jordan Pickford, Marnick Vermijl (Humphrey), Greg Cunningham, Tom Clarke (c), Paul Huntington, Bailey Wright, John Welsh,Daniel Johnson, Paul Gallagher, Joe Garner, Will Keane (Hugill)

Subs: Steve James, Chris Humphrey, Neil Kilkenny, Calum Woods, Alan Browne, Josh Brownhill, Jordan Hugill.

MIDDLESBROUGH: Dimi Konstantopoulos, George Friend, Daniel Ayala, Grant Leadbitter (c), Adam Clayton, Adam Reach (Fabrini),

Dael Fry, Tomas Kalas, Albert Adomah

Subs: Tomas Mejias, Muzzy Carayol, Jack Stephens, Cristhian Stuani (Kike), Emilio Nsue, Diego Fabbrini (Reach), Adam Forshaw (Leadbitter)

Referee: Mr C Kavanagh

Attendance 15,974