Frankie McAvoy thinks Ched Evans showed precisely how important he is to the Preston cause after inspiring the 2-1 win against Middlesbrough.
Evans headed the Lilywhites level with 13 minutes remaining after returning to action for the first time since August 17.
The 32-year-old striker was introduced shortly after half-time after recovering from a foot injury and it led to his first goal of the season when he headed in Ben Whiteman’s corner.
Four minutes later Danish forward Emil Riis was gifted the winner following a mistake from Sol Bamba to inflict a first defeat on new Middlesbrough manager Chris Wilder.
The Boro boss had watched his side take the lead through Paddy McNair’s header in the 33rd minute and they had been denied further goals by Preston goalkeeper Daniel Iversen.
Preston head coach McAvoy, whose side have now won four of their last seven Sky Bet Championship matches, said: “I have said Ched is a big player for us.
“It was great I could get him on the pitch, get him up the front of the pitch, you could see his impact.
“Ched manages to help us manage games, the corners, the throw-ins, he is an all-round fantastic guy to work with. He gives us so much, takes the pressure off the defence. I am delighted he is part of our group.
“It was the players who delivered on the pitch. We started the game well, we were brave. We had a couple of good shouts for penalty kicks in the first half, one in particular looks a stone-waller; the other I could see that given as well.
“We conceded from a corner kick again, we have worked hard on those, that’s disappointing. In the main we defended well.
“That is now four wins in the last seven games. The biggest thing is the team spirit we have, it has always been there despite what other people think. The fans were magnificent as well. I am delighted we have won it.”
Wilder signed Evans when he was Sheffield United boss so knew all about what the striker has to offer.
But the new Middlesbrough boss was more concerned with how Preston were able to turn things around following bad decisions from the players in the squad he has inherited.
Wilder will take his side to Huddersfield on Saturday looking to claim a first win, having seen his reign start with a point from two matches – and Boro are without a win in five.
He said: “I thought Preston were the better side for the first 10. We got to grips with that. We got ourselves up in the game and for the amount of chances we have had we should have increased our lead.
“In the second half we were not so dominant, but there was nothing from the opposition that changed the flow. We were still in the ascendancy. What affected the game was our attitude towards it.
“For the period where we lost it we played like we were three or four up. We weren’t, we were one up. If you are only one up then things can turn around. Even if we were three or four up I don’t want to play like that.
“I thought we tried to force it, there were too many looking to be the star of the show, looking for the killer ball.
“The top and bottom of it is that we have lost a game we should have comfortably won.
“I want them to play with a certain amount of arrogance and confidence but there has to be something at the end of it.”
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