Preston North End 0 Middlesbrough 2: Yakubu gives Boro second shot at glory

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The Independent Football

The thousands of words used to describe this match were eclipsed by the seven with which the travelling supporters summed up this fourth straight win for Middlesbrough.

Boro rarely rose above the mundane, but that will matter little to them as they contemplate a place in the FA Cup sixth round, to go with the foot they have in the last 16 of the Uefa Cup.

They won by scoring from their only efforts of note, both from Yakubu. "Two shots, we've only had two shots," exclaimed their fans, and that, in a nutshell, was just about that.

The Middlesbrough manager, Steve McClaren, said: "We knew Preston would come at us. We were disappointing in the first half and didn't pass it well enough. But we didn't want a replay so we went for it. This was always going to be a tough game but we've got strikers who can score goals and that always gives you a chance. We'll see what the draw brings now."

Middlesbrough were a different proposition once they introduced Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at half-time to give Yakubu some much-needed company up front. It was the substitute who released his forward partner to belt a left-foot shot across Carlo Nash into the far corner six minutes after the break.

The second killed the contest on 77 minutes as Preston were defeated in a fifth-round tie at Deepdale for the first time.

A static defensive line allowed an innocuous in-swinging free-kick from Stewart Downing to find its way across the area to Yakubu, whose weak header embarrassed Nash at his near post.

Preston carved out several more chances, won the corner count comprehensively, and matched their more lofty opponents in every department except where it mattered most, in front of goal.

Mark Schwarzer made an excellent close-range save from Youl Mawene's header with the hosts' clearest chance as they dominated immediately after the break. David Nugent had a first-half shot deflected narrowly wide, while the striker headed a better opening horribly off-target shortly after shooting narrowly over as Boro rocked but failed to buckle.

"That's the difference between the Premier League and the Championship," admitted Billy Davies, the Preston manager. "We played really well without having that cutting edge. It's a concern when that happens and you don't score and a big lesson for us. You've got to be clinical when on top."

Victory arrived at a cost. Just when it appeared Middlesbrough's lengthy injury list was easing, they lost midfielder Fabio Rochemback to an ankle injury after a harmless-looking fall in first-half stoppage time.

"It's quite serious," revealed McClaren. "We don't know at this stage if it's a break or ligaments. "

Goals: Yakubu (51) 0-1, (77) 0-2.

Preston North End (4-4-2): Nash; Mears, Davis, Mawene, Hill; Sedgwick (Neal 68), O'Neil (Dichio 68), McKenna, Davidson; Nugent, Agyemang (Lucketti 81). Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Hibbert.

Middlesbrough (4-5-1): Schwarzer; McMahon (Hasselbaink 46), Riggott, Pogatetz, Queudrue; Parnaby, Mendieta, Boateng, Rochemback (Cattermole 45), Downing; Yakubu (Southgate 80). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Taylor.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Booked: Middlesbrough McMahon, Hasselbaink; Preston Mawene, Davidson.

Man of the match: Yakubu.

Attendance: 19,877.