Jonathan Woodgate didn’t get the three points he would have liked - but the Boro head coach was rewarded with a much improved performance from his side against Preston North End.
Coming just four days after Boro were trounced 4-1 at home by Sheffield Wednesday, Woodgate had demanded a response from his players for the visit of the Lilywhites, and while victory was deserved, the head coach had to be content with a point from a 1-1 draw.
It was Boro who carved out the first opening of the game after a bright start, Marcus Browne being denied by the legs of Declan Rudd after a neat knock-down from Britt Assombalonga.
Marcus Tavernier also sent one wide after Ryan Shotton embarked on driving forward for Boro, and Woodgate’s side went ever closer when McNair crossed after good work by Anfernee Dijksteel, Assombalonga headed against the post from close range.
Boro had been the better side by some margin, but after Adam Clayton headed a corner off the line, the visitors took the lead five minutes before the break after a huge slice of good fortune.
Alan Browne saw a weak shot deflected onto the post, and the rebound fell straight into the path of Josh Harrop who converted from two yards out.
Boro were level within 90 seconds though. Tavernier did well before McNair drilled the ball into the box and Assombalonga got the final touch right on the line to make it 1-1.
Tavernier was first to test Preston keeper Rudd in the second period when he pulled off an acrobatic save to deny the youngster after good play by Browne. Ben Davies also threw himself in the way of another Tavernier shot as Boro continued to dominate the game.
The visitors rarely threatened although when they did, Daniel Johnson should have done better after good work by Tom Barkhuizen.
Jonny Howson was a key figure for Boro at the heart of the midfield and Preston centre back Patrick Bauer had to be at his best to cut out a sublime pass which would have released Assombalonga on goal.