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As opening games go for your first match at a new club, Chris Wilder would have been delighted with a home fixture against Millwall, a team who also find themselves as outsiders for the playoffs.
The signs were there that Boro would record a win for the replacement for Neil Warnock, but Sol Bamba‘s own goal cancelled out Matt Crooks‘s earlier strike.
Boro have now gone four games without success, while the gap to sixth-placed Queens Park Rangers now stands at six points.
Nevertheless, Wilder was full of praise for his squad, acknowledging after the contest that he is trying to instill a new style of play.
While another game three days later will be tough on the legs, Wilder will recognise that Boro have a great opportunity to regain some momentum in the race for the playoffs.
Having felt that his players tired during the latter stages against Millwall, Wilder will consider making changes to his Middlesbrough XI.
Onel Hernandez is an option for the wing-back positions, while Neil Taylor may be given a chance after signing on a free transfer.
Uche Ikpeazu and Josh Coburn are alternatives in the final third with Duncan Watmore most likely to drop out.
McAvoy will also likely make alterations to his Preston side with Josh Earl and Daniel Johnson both in contention for recalls.
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Liam Lindsay, who has not played in the Championship since the start of October, will also hope for an opportunity in defence.
Middlesbrough possible starting lineup:
Daniels; McNair, Bamba, Peltier; Jones, Crooks, Howson, Tavernier, Bola; Sporar, Watmore
Preston North End possible starting lineup:
Iversen; Van den Berg, Bauer, Hughes; Barkhuizen, Ledson, McCann, Earl; Johnson; Maguire, Jakobsen