PNE 0 Middlesbrough 0
Championship football returned to Deepdale as the Lilywhites put on a fantastic hard-wrking display to earn a disciplined point against last season's beaten Championship Play-Off finalists Middlesbrough.
North End's best two chances fell to Joe Garner, a last minute header and a shot saved by Konstantopoulos, but last season's League One top scorer should also have had a penalty in the first half.
Jermaine Beckford was the only absentee for manager Simon Grayson, his Wembley hat-trick hero not available due to a slight knock picked up during pre-season, meaning a two man attack of Joe Garner and debutant Will Keane, who joined Greg Cunningham and Marnick Vermijl making their first competitive appearances in a white shirt.
The first half was played an extremely high tempo with both sides having good spells and opportunities to break the deadlock.
The first real chance came eight minutes in after a corner had been won by pressure from Garner, forcing mistake from George Friend. A Paul Gallagher outswinger from the right in front of the Kop end holding the Middlesbrough following, was met by Aussie international Bailey Wright, but he flashed his header wide of the left hand post from 12 yards out.
The visitors two best chances came either side of the 15 minute mark. Firstly skipper Grant Leadbitter exchanged a one-two in the box with Kike and found himself free 12 yards out in front of goal, but he fired wide left with what was a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring.
On 16 minutes George Friend came forward all way from the back and then tried to feed Kike, but a great interception by Bailey Wright prevented a shooting opportunity.
North End started to get stronger as the half went on. On 28 minutes a Will Keane effort was cleared off the line after a weak punch by Dimi Konstantopoulos from Gallagher’s free kick.
But the ball came back in and as Joe Garner went for the ball he was rugby tackled in the box by Friend, a clear penalty, only for referee Chris Kavanagh to wave play on. Konstantopoulos though spilled the ball and then made a fine save with his chest to deny Garner who had got back to his feet.
Ten minutes before the break Daniel Johnson danced past Friend into box forcing a scramble with the ball eventually coming back out to Vermijl’s, but his cross along the six yard box was blocked by Tomas Kalas, the Chelsea loanee.
Just before the break another new PNE weapon was revealed as an arrow of a throw in from Marnick Vermijl went right under the cross bar where Garner got in front of Konstantopoulos on the line, but no PNE man was on hand to take advantage.
The second half started brightly as well with Vermijl a threat down the right, but it was Kike who had the first real chance, a header that Paul Huntington did excellently to get up and block for a corner on 51 minutes.
The work rate of the Lilywhites was phenomenal epitomised by John Welsh in front of the back three, whose performance shone out on an afternoon where North End looked like they belonged in their new home.
With seconds left the best chance of the game came for North End. Greg Cunningham picked up a ball that had been pinched by Daniel Johnson. The new PNE No.3 put over a perfect ball that Garner seemed destined to head home, but the ball bounced wide of the right hand upright and the game ended goalless.
: Pickford, Vermijl (Humphrey, 78), Cunningham, Clarke (c), Wright, Huntington, Welsh, Johnson, Gallagher, Keane (Hugill, 84), Garner. Subs not used: James, Kilkenny, Woods, Browne, Brownhill, Hugill.PNE line-up
: Konstanopoulos, Friend, Ayala, Leadbitter (c) (Forshaw, 88), Clayton, Kike (Stuani, 77), Downing, Reach (Fabbrini, 60), Fry, Kalas, Adomah. Subs not used: Meijas, Carayol, Stephens, Nsue, Forshaw.Middlesbrough line-up
: 15,974 (3,737 away fans)Attendance
: Mr C KavanaghReferee