Preston North End boss Alex Neil frustrated by loss to Middlesbrough

Preston North End manager Alex Neil felt defeat to Middlesbrough at Deepdale was harsh on his side.

The 3-2 reverse on New Year's Day was their first loss in 10 games, it coming after they had held a 2-1 lead at half-time.

PNE manager Alex Neil

PNE manager Alex Neil

Daniel Ayala put Boro in front in the 13th minute, Callum Robinson equalising straight away with a header from Tom Barkhuizen's cross.

Jordan Hugill then gave North End the lead in the 40th minute, Barkhuizen putting a header against the bar soon after that.

But the contest swung Boro's way with two goals in eight second-half minutes, Jonny Howson levelling with a fine finish from the edge of the box before Ayala headed his second of the contest.

Neil said: "I don’t even think a draw would have been a fair result, I thought we deserved to win the game.

PNE players trudge back to the centre circle after conceding the third goal against Middlesbrough

PNE players trudge back to the centre circle after conceding the third goal against Middlesbrough

"We had 20 shots at goal, we moved the ball really well in the first half and created lots of chances.

"We deservedly took the lead and had it going into half-time.

"They scored against the run of play and we showed a great reaction by getting a goal straight back and then I thought we were excellent after that.

"The simple fact is that as this level when you’re playing against some of the top teams, the difference can be winning that header in your box and clearing your lines and taking that chance when it comes along.

"That’s how fine the margins were today.

"We lost a couple of headers in our box and that cost us.

"Then when our chances came along the ‘keeper made a save or we hit the bar.

"We just didn’t have that final bit to put the game to bed.

"We had two great opportunities to make it 3-1 at the end of the first half."