North End paid the ultimate penalty for once again throwing the lead away twice in this game.
Goals from Robinson and Barkhuizen had twice given Alex Neil’s men the advantage but such is the frailness of the North End defence at the moment that the visitors twice levelled the game and went through on spot-kicks at the end.
North End played some better football than of late and we looked much better with Ben Pearson back in the side.
However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and we seem to be going through a patch where we cannot buy a win.
One huge disappointment on the night was the crowd of only 5,095 with 731 from the North East.
That’s just 4,364 North End fans at home for a League Cup third round game against a team at the top of the Championship.
The manager reverted to his tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 with Callum Robinson spearheading the attack for North End.
The first half was very open and to be fair to both sides there was some good football played without really a dirty tackle in the game.
I suppose it has to be said that Boro made quite a number of changes and that North End had a side out that could be classed as a first team XI.
After chances at both ends PNE took the lead with a well worked goal finished of by man of the match Robinson in front of the visiting fans.
The lead lasted less that 10 minutes, though, as a pacy Middlesbrough attack threatened Chris Maxwell’s goal with Fletcher finally making the breakthrough as he rounded the North End keeper and slotted the ball into the net.
Preston started the second period quite well and, kicking towards a very sparsely populated Alan Kelly Stand, they looked the likeliest to score in the the early stages.
North End had a couple of half-chances before Boro hit the bar after Maxwell had saved just on the hour mark.
It looked like a game that could go either way and it was PNE who edged in front again when Barkhuizen struck a lovely shot from the inside left position that went in off the post.
However once again North End could not hold on to the lead and Tavernier hit a peach of an equaliser to set up a grandstand finish.
A Harrop shot late on was brilliantly saved and so the game went to the dreaded penalties. Ledson scored first for North End but two howling misses from Robinson and Burke, coupled with the visitors scoring four out of four, meant we were out of our least favourite cup competition.
Slightly difficult to make a fully objective assessment of this cup tie which was easy to watch and which saw both sides execute some high quality football.
In the normal scheme of things it would not have been a disaster but when you have now lost four on the trot and conceded 11 goals in 11 days it sort of brings you back down to earth a little in terms of PNE’s problems.
For what it’s worth I thought this was a considerably better performance than of late with two good goals and some spirit show by the side after a difficult run of results.
The fact of the matter is that we are still conceding goals for fun and until the managers plugs the leaks at the back then I fear the result we are looking for might be a little longer in coming.
It was better but there is still much work to do if we are to turn around this season’s shocking start.