Dave Seddon's verdict on Preston North End's 2-1 victory at Middlesbrough
Welshman Ched Evans joined Preston North End’s pair of Danes on star billing in this unlikely win at Middlesbrough.
Unlikely in the sense that for three quarters of the clash the Lilywhites played second fiddle to their hosts on the banks of the River Tees.
Evans set about changing the course of the game with a 77th-minute equaliser.
Then Emil Riis netted the winner five minutes later with a now trademark emphatic finish.
The fact those two goals counted for anything was down to Riis’ countryman Daniel Iversen at the other end of the pitch.
With the scoreline 1-0, the keeper produced half a dozen saves to prevent Boro adding to their lead and pulling away out of sight.
Tipping over a chip from home skipper Jonny Howson in first-half stoppage time was just for starters.
In the second half Iversen got in the way of five more shots from the Teessiders, the pick of the bunch being the touch he got on Lee Peltier’s deflected drive to take it on to the underside of the bar.
Iversen’s heroics didn’t just lay the foundations for PNE’s late rally, it built the walls and put the roof supports in place!
Is there a better keeper playing in the Championship at present?
North End really did pull the iron out of the fire in terms of winning this one.
They hadn’t mustered an effort on target until the equaliser.
For all of the hostility which has gone the way of Frankie McAvoy of late, he deserved credit for the manner in which the direction of play was flipped.
The display for an hour or so could be questioned but the response from the sidelines by way of the change of personnel and formation proved the right ones.
McAvoy went early with his first substitution, sending on Evans for Sean Maguire eight minutes into the second half.
It was a risk bearing in mind Evans’ last game had been in August, with no reserve outing to ease him back after his long lay-off.
Suddenly the Boro backline was given something to think about, the experienced striker bringing a physical element to the play.
Daniel Johnson and Scott Sinclair followed Evans off the bench in the 72nd minute, their arrival seeing a change of system to 4-2-3-1.
McAvoy pointed out it was the first time a mid-game switch to a back four had resulted in a win during his stewardship.
Maybe that admission will only add to the clamour for him to abandon his favoured 3-5-2 and go 4-3-3.
Did Tuesday night’s victory save McAvoy’s job? I’m not sure the plug would definitely have been pulled but it certainly eased a little pressure.
That’s the here and now, the pressure will rise again if this win isn’t built on.
So it’s a case of enjoying this one then getting focused on Saturday’s assignment against Fulham at Deepdale.
The sides matched one another in terms of starting with a 3-5-2 system and neither tore into one another to start with.
PNE started quite brightly but Boro had started to show more purpose with their play just ahead of taking a 33rd-minute lead.
Howson’s corner from the left was met by McNair who sent a header into the roof of the net after getting the run on Andrew Hughes.
North End’s equaliser came from a corner too, sent into the box by Ben Whiteman.
Evans met it a step to the left of the penalty spot, jumping high to power a header into the top corner.
Better was to come for the visitors and their pocket of 400 fans in the 82nd minute.
The winner came from a phase of play which started in their own box, skipper Alan Browne blocking a shot from Marcus Tavernier at close quarters.
Play moved up field, with Whiteman sweeping a pass out to find Johnson down the right channel.
Johnson moved inside and tried to pick out Evans with a low cross into the box. Sol Bamba intercepted but kicked his clearance against McNair.
The ball ran to Riis who stepped across Bamba as he tried to make amends and swept home a left-foot finish into the far side of the net.
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