Dave Seddon's match verdict: Middlesbrough 1 Preston North End 1 - Expectation levels raised by PNE's good start

Preston skipper Alan Browne goes up for a header against Middlesbrough
Preston skipper Alan Browne goes up for a header against Middlesbrough

With an unbeaten run comes an expectation and there was a sense of disappointment in the air at Preston North End’s draw with Middlesbrough.

The Lilywhites have strung seven Championship games together without defeat and sit fifth in the table.

Tom Barkhuizen is clipped by Dani Ayala

Tom Barkhuizen is clipped by Dani Ayala

On Tuesday they made the trip to Teesside accompanied by an air of confidence.

Coupled with North End's good form was the fact Boro had just been hammered 4-1 on turf home by Sheffield Wednesday.

So when the visitors took a 40th-minute lead to bring the contest to life, it sought to heighten the expectation that three points would come back with them to Lancashire.

A Boro equaliser within two minutes dampened that and the two teams went on to fight out a game which saw plenty of effort but lacked quality.

Josh Harrop gives Middlesbrough left-back Ryan Shotton the slip

Josh Harrop gives Middlesbrough left-back Ryan Shotton the slip

PNE boss Alex Neil took the view that a point was not to be sniffed at, mindful that the record in this part of the world was not the best. Mindful too that despite a tepid start to the campaign by the home side, they still have some quality within their squad.

“You look at Middlesbrough and they are probably gutted only to get a point against us, having been beaten at the weekend,” said Neil.

“We sit here as if we are devastated that we haven’t won the game.

“Our win here last season, which we didn’t deserve, was the first in the league for 40 years or so.

Josh Harrop turns to celebrate after giving PNE the lead at Middlesbrough

Josh Harrop turns to celebrate after giving PNE the lead at Middlesbrough

“We need to put a tin lid on it – there have been nine games played.

“Once we get into the second half of the season and we are still in and around it, then we can start to talk about being disappointed if we don’t get results at certain places.

“For us that is seven games unbeaten. Yes, there might be a bit of disappointment as we could have done a bit better.

“But I think a draw against Middlesbrough at their place isn’t a bad point.”

Ben Pearson is fouled by Marcus Browne

Ben Pearson is fouled by Marcus Browne

Neil felt neither side did enough to win the game and he was probably right.

Boro looked a touch more likely to do so than PNE, in the sense they struck the woodwork – fortuitously it has to be said – and forced two good saves out of Declan Rudd.

The visitors made their one shot on target count, with Josh Harrop following up an Alan Browne drive against the post to find the net.

Had Preston held the lead longer than the two minutes they did, taken an advantage into half-time, they could well have gone on to win.

They had done likewise at Birmingham in the previous away game, snatching the lead and seeing it out.

This one will not live in the memory for long, a typical Championship battle in the North East drizzle.

Neil had limited himself to one change to the side which had drawn 3-3 against Bristol City at the weekend.

That saw Browne coming in for Paul Gallagher, that a sensible change on a big pitch.

North End’s defending was far better at the Riverside than it had been on Saturday.

Their two best players on the night were Ben Davies and Patrick Bauer.

I felt Davies edged it for the starman honour, putting in two fine penalty-box blocks in the second half.

Bauer was very good but had Rudd to thank to sparing him from scoring an own goal.

From most angles it looked like it was a shot from Boro’s Marcus Tavernier which the keeper tipped over as the hour mark approached.

It was Bauer with the touch though, as he attempted to nick it off Tavernier.

Early in the game, Rudd saved well with his feet to block a Marcus Browne shot.

Browne, the PNE version, saw a header blocked inside the six-yard box but they didn’t have to wait too much longer to take the lead.

Browne hit a low shot from 15 yards after a clearance had fallen his way.

It hit the far post, bounced across goal and Harrop was on hand to knock it over the line.

Boro were level quickly, North End not tracking Paddy McNair as he ran on to a pass down the

right-hand side of the box.

McNair put in a low cross from the byline which Fisher could only turn over the line as he tried to stop striker Britt Assombalonga reaching it.

Fisher was unlucky, the ball should have been cut out long before it got there.