Boro’s season came to a conclusion with defeat at Deepdale.

Results elsewhere dictated that a play-off place would have always been beyond Boro, but Emil Riis’ hat-trick ensured the ten-man Teessiders were consigned to a loss on the road.

There was a single change to Chris Wilder’s line-up, as Paddy McNair returned after illness in place of Lee Peltier.

Despite an energetic start, the Teessiders struggled to carve out meaningful chances in the May sunshine, and instead it was the hosts who drew first blood.

Captain Alan Browne the man to deliver, taking a cross from the right which had evaded two red shirts onto his chest, and arrowing a shot into the bottom corner.

Preston were denied a second goal ten minutes later despite the ball finding the net from a corner, the referee signalling a foul on Luke Daniels, but minutes later it was two.

Riis escaped the attentions of Anfernee Dijksteel and Jonny Howson on the byline, and the striker drilled across goal, the ball squirming past Daniels via a touch from Dael Fry.

Boro were left with a mountain to climb, and it was the home side who could have added to the advantage before the break, Ali McCann sending a low shot whistling past the far post and Daniel Johnson denied only by an last ditch sliding tackle from Isaiah Jones.

Wilder’s side came out swinging in the second half, and were handed a lifeline when Marcus Tavernier headed home Anfernee Dijksteel’s deep cross in front of the travelling fans.

But Boro’s joy was short lived, Riis restoring the two-goal cushion when he was sent clean through and dinked over Daniels and into the net.

After that, Preston had goalkeeper Daniel Iversen to thank for denying Boro a way back into the contest, producing strong saves to deny Duncan Watmore and substitute Folarin Balogun from close range.

At the other end, Luke Daniels made a number of good stops as Boro went increasingly top-heavy with attacking substitutions, but he was beaten again from the penalty spot, Riis completing his hat-trick after Paddy McNair was dismissed for handball.

The packed away end, though, continued to sing and show their support for Wilder’s team for what proved to be the final outing of the campaign.