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Middlesbrough performance gives us something to build on says Preston North End boss Alex Neil

Alex Neil hopes his Preston North End side take confidence from their performance despite exiting the Carabao Cup at the hands of Middlesbrough.

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Preston's players celebrate Tom Barkhuizen's goal against Middlesbrough

Preston's players celebrate Tom Barkhuizen's goal against Middlesbrough

PNE led twice through Callum Robinson and Tom Barkhuizen only for first Ashley Fletcher and then Marcus Tavernier to quickly cancel out the home side’s advantage.

Man of the match Robinson and Graham Burke then missed the crucial spot kicks.

Neil was keen to take the positives however, his side looking to haul themselves off the bottom of the Championship when West Bromwich Albion visit Deepdale on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of positives and plenty to work on,” said the PNE boss, who recalled Ben Pearson after suspension as one of three changes from the defeat at Sheffield United last time out.

“Hopefully tonight’s performance can give them a bit of confidence because to play the way we need to play you need to be confident on the ball.

“The lads all did really well and Callum Robinson and Ben Pearson in particular were excellent for us.

“You can always see the difference when your key players are available and we’re still two short.

“If you go to any club and take three or four key players out of their team it’s going to be a problem.”

Robinson’s neat turn and finish on 27 minutes saw PNE lead for eight minutes with Barkhuizen’s drive from distance midway through the second half putting North End back in front for just three.

The moves for both Boro goals began when the hosts looked to play their way out of trouble.

“In terms of the way we play we need to risk the ball at the back because we haven’t got a big target man to go and hit the ball up to,” said Neil.

“When you do that you naturally leave yourself open a little bit.

“If we just bang the ball up it’s just going to continually come back.

“It forces us to play in a certain style which can make you vulnerable we just need to learn when to play and when to try and turn it and put it in behind. We did that in spells."