Tony Pulis has set his sights on a return to the Premier League after seeing his Middlesbrough side come from behind to defeat Preston.
The hosts led at half-time after goals from Callum Robinson and Jordan Hugill cancelled out Daniel Ayala’s opener at Deepdale, but a strike from Jonny Howson and Ayala’s second saw the three points return to the Riverside.
And Pulis – who took over at the Boro helm after Gary Monk’s sacking – could not have asked for a more promising start to the new year.
“We scored a first goal and then without touching the ball they equalised and that knocked us,”
“I was pleased to come in 2-1 down at half-time. I thought Preston were really very good first half. We sat off them and allowed them to play.
“We showed a lot of character second half which was very encouraging. I don’t know the players that well so it will take me a while to know what I have got and what I haven’t got.
“This league is all about turning up every week. If you don’t do that you have absolutely no chance.
“I will be doing my best to get this club back into the Premier League as soon as possible.”
Middlesbrough took the lead after just 13 minutes as Ayala powered in a header from 12 yards from Stewart Downing’s free-kick. But Preston were back on level terms almost immediately as Robinson headed past Darren Randolph, before the hosts doubled their tally when Hugill’s header deflected in.
Boro restored parity on 65 minutes courtesy of Howson’s curling right-footed effort and Ayala ensured a happy start to 2018 for his side, nodding in the winner from close range on 73 minutes.
“I don’t even think a draw would have been a fair result, I thought we deserved to win the game,” said Preston boss Alex Neil.
“We had a lot of chances and deservedly had the lead going into half-time.
“The simple fact is at this level, the difference can be clearing your lines and taking your chances when they come along.
“I have a mixture of emotions because it’s so difficult to be disappointed with my players. But I am disappointed with some of the goals we’ve conceded and I know the players are disappointed as well.
“The biggest frustration is the kind of goals that we’ve lost. I am frustrated for the players because I thought they did more than enough to take the three points.
“We were beaten by minor decisions that we didn’t really do well enough at certain times in the game.”