This was not only a disappointing result but also an uncharacteristically bad performance from Boro. Boro had high expectation this campaign with one and only one target from this campaign and that is to bounce back to the Premier League sooner rather than later. But judging from this performance alone, they are far from achieving their goal.
On the other hand, this result was great for Preston North End as they were the underdog going into this match and came to Boro’s ground expecting to be beaten. However, throughout the match Preston looked the better side as they had more possession and better attacking intent. They had the best chances of the game too, but the lack of decision making in the final third and Darren Randolph’s heroics meant that 3 points were not meant to be. Moreover they were able to showcase their main strength, the defensive aspect of their game to the whole league as they totally shunned out Boro’s attack.
The main reason for Boro’s bad performance may be because of their shift in formation. Boro have played all their games with their traditional 4-3-3 formation but Boro manager Garry Monk wanted to tweak his proven and reliable 4-3-3 formation in favour to test the Premier League concurring 3-5-2 formation.
Boro lineup (3-5-2): Randolph (GK), Christie, Fry, Gibson (Capt.), Friend, Fabio, Howson, Baker, Clayton, Gestede, Assombalonga. Subs: Konstantopoulos (GK), Roberts, Ayala, Leadbitter, Fletcher, Downing, Bamford.
Preston North End lineup (4-1-4-1): Maxwell (GK), Pearson, Browne, Hugill, Johnson, Fisher, Davies, Huntington (Capt.), Maguire, Tom Barkhuizen, Earl. Subs: Hudson (GK), Vermijl, Horgan, Harrop, Spurr, Mavididi, Robinson.
Preston North End have not been great in front of goal since the start of the season, scoring only 2 goals in their previous 4 league games of this season. But they could have easily doubled that tally against Boro. Tom Barkhuizen had the best chance to open the scoring in the 1st half. But Darren Randolph was able to push his shot on to the post.
Another great opportunity fell to Preston North End’s Paul Huntington just before the end of the 1st half which was also saved by Randolph.
In the 2nd half Randolph again came into action by saving a Sean Maguire shot. From Boro’s attacking perspective there was not much to say. Britt Assombalonga and Rudy Gestede had 1 shot each both of which were not on target. Boro’s hometown boy Stewart Downing finally came on at 68’ for his first league appearance of the season and introduced some much needed creativity within the team whilst also having the only shot on target for Boro.
After the game, Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk said, “that was not the performance we wanted.”
“We are trying to set a high standard for the players and the club - and we feel disappointment. We need to take a lesson from today. And we never came out on top of them in any instance.”
“They were first to every header, every tackle. The positive is that we still take a point and got a clean sheet. The point could be valuable, but we wanted three. But I think we were probably lucky to get the result we did.”