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Chris Wilder questions Middlesbrough’s fight and desire after defeat at Preston

Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough missed out on the play-offs (Richard Sellers/PA)
Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough missed out on the play-offs (Richard Sellers/PA)

Chris Wilder questioned his players’ fight and desire after 10-man Middlesbrough slumped to a 4-1 defeat at Preston to end their Championship play-off hopes.

Boro needed a final-day win at Deepdale to give themselves a chance of climbing into the top six but Emil Riis Jakobsen’s double helped fire Ryan Lowe’s side to a comfortable victory.

Alan Browne’s strike and a Dael Fry own goal also did the damage as Marcus Tavernier’s reply proved nothing more than a consolation ahead of Paddy McNair’s second-half red card.

Sheffield United and Luton’s wins ensured they completed the play-off places and Wilder admits his players never looked like leapfrogging them in Lancashire.

He said: “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

“The players were really off it and our fight should have been bigger than theirs.

“It was not the performance and not the day – you wake up believing, but it’s not to be.

“I think if anybody else outside of being a professional footballer asks me about ‘nothing to play for’ ever again, I’ll just show you the performance of the opposition today and how they went about it.

“Preston fully deserved their result – I thought they were better than us all over the pitch.

“Their front two were better than our back three, their midfield players dominated and dictated and their back three were more aggressive.

“We’ve had better results than them because that’s the reason we’re in the position that we are and Preston are in the position that they are.

“But it was a better performance individually and collectively by Preston and Ryan’s team all over the park.”

Preston looked livelier from the off and broke the deadlock in the 24th minute as captain Browne slammed home a half volley after Brad Potts’ cross.

And they doubled their lead just 11 minutes later as Boro defender Fry deflected the ball past goalkeeper Luke Daniels.

Tavernier’s header pulled one back for the visitors just after the break but hopes of a comeback were dashed when Riis Jakobsen coolly lifted the ball over Daniels after a clever pass from Cameron Archer.

Preston added extra gloss to the scoreline from the penalty spot as McNair was sent off for a handball, with Riis Jakobsen slotting home to end the hosts’ season on a high.

Boss Lowe, whose team finished 13th in the table, said: “It’s crazy isn’t it, football, because that’s probably the best performance we’ve had all season.

“It was everything we asked for. If any game plans go to plan, that was it.

“I think we’ve got that in our locker. The players you’ve seen all season, we’ve just been nearly there and today was just an outstanding performance and exactly what I wanted.

“With two wins, we’ve finished the season on a high and that can lead us into a tough summer, which we know is going to be tough in terms of recruitment and everything else.

“It’s tough when lads are coming and going and leaving but for us to finish on a high with the fans and everyone associated with the football club, to take us to that next level, that’s the performance I want.

“They were all brilliant in different ways. I’ve said about the lads all season that they’ve got big performances and are big players.

“I’ve challenged them over the last week or so and there are one or two – I won’t name names – who I’ve said, ‘look, come on, I need more otherwise it’s a case of you’ll be replaced’.

“This is people who are under contract so they’re giving us it and I want that continuing for next season.”