Five talking points from Preston North End's 4-1 win over Middlesbrough

Any suggestions that Preston North End would be ‘on the beach’ against Middlesbrough were unfounded as they finished the season in style.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 8th May 2022, 8:00 am

The flip flops and beach towels stayed in the dressing room with the Lilywhites bossing the final game of the season and winning 4-1 in the Deepdale sunshine.

Boro needed to win to try and gate crash the play-offs but it was North End who looked like the side gunning for the top-six with the visitors average to say the least.

Here we look at some of the talking points from Saturday’s contest.

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Preston North End's Daniel Johnson grapples with Middlesbrough keeper Luke Daniels as tempers flare at Deepdale

1: Saving the best to last.

There was little argument that this was PNE’s best performance of the season as well as their biggest winning margin. Of course the stand-out victory of the campaign will be Blackpool at home, however, Boro are stronger opponents and North End really clicked to see them off.

You would say that the outcome wasn’t in any doubt once Alan Browne wrapped his right foot around the ball and fired home the opening goal. Boro were edgy, if anything the occasion got to them, and the Lilywhites took advantage.

Their play was streetwise, it was pleasing on the eye at times and it was great to see the ball in the back of the net four times. How many times this season, even in victory, has it been said that the winning margin could have been greater?

Preston North End's Cameron Archer has a shot which leads to the penalty against Middlesbrough at Deepdale

2: Two or three?

Emil Riis, Ryan Lowe and Alan Browne were in no doubt about whether a hat-trick had been scored in the game.

The official statistics will show the scorers as Browne, Fry og and Riis (2), but PNE striker Riis is claiming a treble.

Yes, his 35th minute shot deflected off Boro defender Fry and diverted into the net. However, he’ll argue his effort was on target anyway.

PNE manager Lowe says it was a hat-trick, so too Browne who used his influence as skipper to let Riis take the penalty for the fourth goal.

What Riis can’t be denied is hitting the 20-goal mark for the season. What a huge improvement on the three he managed last season, albeit his arrival was a month or so in.

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3: First-half double.

For the first time under Lowe’s management, North End scored twice in the first half. Only twice had they done it previously in the league this season, against Swansea and Luton when Frankie McAvoy was in charge.

They’ve been very much a second-half team under Lowe, growing into games as a general rule and getting rewards a bit later on.

Browne and Riis made it a more comfortable half-time with their first-half goals.

4: Farewell Hunts.

Paul Huntington got his first big cheer in the 25th minute when he did his first warm-up jog down the touchline. The noise levels rose to 11 when he came on in the 79th minute to replace Bambo Diaby. He got involved in the action, making a couple of clearances and wasn’t too far from scoring when he got his head to Ryan Ledson’s corner.

Watched by his wife, daughter and family, he gave an emotional speech during the player of the year presentations to say his goodbyes.

Best of luck Hunts, a fine player and an even better man. Good luck!

5: Strong midfield display.

North End’s engine-room was at full steam. Ali McCann was teamed with Alan Browne in the ‘eights’ positions, Ben Whiteman was in the sitting role, with Daniel Johnson again in the left wing-back slot. McCann did briefly swap with DJ in the second half but a yellow card saw him switch back into midfield.

McCann’s energy was something else, he was excellent, just what PNE wanted when they shelled-out £1.2m for him last summer. He’s found it harder under Lowe but finally looks to have convinced the North End boss what he is all about.

Browne was more like the skipper of old, driving the midfield on, with Johnson creative out wide.