Preston North End 3 Middlesbrough 0 - Match report on a much-deserved Deepdale victory for the Lilywhites
Preston North End turned on the style to produce their best home performance in a good while and beat Middlesbrough.
Second-half goals from Brad Potts, Scott Sinclair and Emil Riis delivered victory, the first time they had scored three goals in the Championship at Deepdale for 13 months.
It was a deserved win, North End the better side by far for long spells of the game.
Their first half play had lacked a bit of a cutting edge in the final third but they more than made up for it in the second 45 minutes.
They took until the 62nd minute to make the breakthrough, Potts deflecting a shot from Andrew Hughes past the Boro goalkeeper.
PNE then struck twice in three minutes in the closing stages, Sinclair finishing well from substitute Riis' pass, before the Dane got in on the scoring act himself with the third.
Sinclair had headed against the bar when the scoreline was 1-0, with them really stepping-up the attacking pressure in the second half.
They looked more balanced as a side with Hughes returning from injury at left-back, it enabling them to build play more comfortably.
Victory was their first at Deepdale over Boro since April 1972.
Alex Neil had made four changes to the side which had drawn 2-2 with Wycombe last Saturday.
Jayden Stockley returned to the lead the attack, with Hughes resuming at left-back after five weeks out with a torn hamstring.
Potts and Darnell Fisher came back in, Fisher after completing a three-match suspension.
Ben Pearson missed out with ankle ligament damage, Daniel Johnson was suspended, with Joe Rafferty and Sean Maguire dropping to the bench.
North End had the better of the first-half play, moving the ball well from the back through to midfield, although there was a shortage of creativity as they approached the box.
An early free-kick played in by Ryan Ledson from the left was flicked on by Ben Davies but the ball travelled beyond the far post without anyone getting a touch.
There was a decent opening with a quarter of an hour played, Alan Browne's pass bringing Tom Barkhuizen into play down the right channel.
Barkhuizen came inside and slipped a pass through to Potts who from the right hand side of the box drove a shot into the side-netting.
Their best chance of the first period fell to Barkhuizen in the 24th minute, Stockley's clever lay-off from a throw-in finding the winger's run.
Barkhuizen cut into the box but put his low shot too close to keeper Marcus Bettinelli who saved.
The visitors only briefly threatened before the break, Duncan Watmore sending a header too high from Djed Spence's cross.
Boro looked more threatening in the opening exchanges of the second half, a Marvin Johnson cross from the left spinning off Davies' foot and behind for a corner.
George Saville then hooked a shot wide of the far post from Britt Assombalonga's centre.
North End rode out that spell of pressure and took the lead in the 62nd minute.
Barkhuizen launched a long throw-in from the right into the box, Stockley climbing to flick it on. As Potts tried to connect with it, the ball was cleared as far as Hughes a couple of yards outside the box.
The left-back hit a low shot which struck Potts and diverted it past the keeper into the net.
Boro responded with two chances in quick succession, Rudd parrying a shot from Johnson behind at the near post.
When the resulting corner was cleared out of the box, Johnson drilled a low effort goalwards which the covering Stockley stuck out a foot to block.
Neil made a triple substitution in the 74th minute, bringing on Maguire, Earl and Tom Bayliss, with Barkhuizen, Hughes and Browne giving way.
Within three minutes of the change, North End were denied by the woodwork.
Potts swept a shot goalwards which Bettinelli dived to push out, the ball bouncing up to Sinclair who sent a header against the underside of the bar.
It that seemed a let-off at the time for the visitors, it merely served notice of what was to come from North End.
They scored twice in three minutes to underline their control of the proceedings and give the scoreline a realistic impression of the game.
In the 81st minute, Riis - on for Stockley - collected a pass from Potts, turned and rolled the ball into the path of Sinclair.
Sinclair chased it down the left-hand side of the box before driving a low first-time shot across the keeper into the far bottom corner.
Then it was Riis' turn to get in on the scoring act, collecting possession down the right channel.
Riis showed a good turn of pace to carry the ball into the box, before steadying himself, moving on to his left foot and drilling a low shot which had too much pace for Bettinelli and beat his diving attempt to save.
PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Huntington, Davies, Hughes (Earl 74), Browne (Bayliss 74), Ledson, Barkhuizen (Maguire 74), Potts, Sinclair, Stockley (Riis 79). Subs (not used): Harrop, Storey, Rafferty, O'Reilly, Ripley.
Boro: Bettinelli, Spence, McNair, Fry, Bola, Morsy, Howson (Tavernier 63), Saville ()Roberts 81), Watmore (Akpom 67), Johnson, Assonbalonga. Subs (not used): Wing, Folarin, Coulson, Jones, Stojanovic.
Referee: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire)
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