In-form Preston North End extended their unbeaten league run to seven games with a draw at the Riverside that leaves Middlesbrough without a win in three games.
Alex Neil’s Preston side went in front on the back of plenty of Boro pressure, Josh Harrop tucking the ball in on the rebound after Alan Browne’s initial bobbling effort smacked off the post.
However, Boro – who were vastly improved from Saturday’s 4-1 home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday – levelled almost immediately when Darnell Fisher bundled into his own net, after a burst down the right by Marcus Tavernier and Paddy McNair.
Both sides had chances to win it, with North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd in particular making a series of key saves. He denied Marcus Browne with his legs and then tipped over Marcus Tavernier’s effort.
Daniel Johnson was unable to connect cleanly with a Tom Barkhuizen cross when well placed for the visitors, while Paul Gallagher rapped a free-kick into the wall.
The appointment of hometown hero Jonathan Woodgate at the start of the season to replace Tony Pulis as manager was supposed to herald a new dawn for the Teessiders.
But while supporters were heartened by a more adventurous approach, results have disappointed and Boro have slipped to 18th in the table
North End won only one of their opening 11 games last term, and left it too late for a promotion push despite a mid-season revival.
But Alex Neil’s side, who remain fifth, have been much improved this campaign, with just a 3-0 EFL Cup defeat by Manchester City since August’s 3-2 league loss at Swansea.
Middlesbrough manager Jonathan Woodgate told BBC Tees:
“I thought we deserved to win the game, I thought we played really well.
“It was a step in the right direction after that defeat the other day to Sheffield Wednesday.
“They’re a good team, they’re unbeaten since August, (this match) was a stepping stone, but I still think we deserved to win the game.”
Preston North End boss Alex Neil told BBC Radio Lancashire:
“I think it’s probably a fair result. I didn’t think there was a lot in the game, I didn’t think that either team did enough to win to be honest.
“The biggest disappointment is we didn’t hold onto our lead until half-time. Because there wasn’t a lot of opportunities in the game, you know it’s going to be a tight one, so you have to see that phase out.
“Both teams didn’t allow the other team to control the game. It was just a case of who was going to hurt who more.”