Middlesbrough's mission to go one better and achieve promotion from the Championship this term started with a 0-0 stalemate at newly-promoted Preston.
Boro were in competitive action for the first time since a 2-0 loss to Norwich in the play-off final and there was little evidence on this showing that Aitor Karanka's men, now shorn of striker Patrick Bamford, are better equipped to reach the top table this time around.
Aside from a Grant Leadbitter effort which flew narrowly wide and Albert Adomah almost stealing in twice in the second period, they failed to carry much attacking threat in the first game since Karanka signed a new four-year deal this week.
PNE starting Xl: Pickford, Vermijl, Clarke, Huntington, Wright, Cunningham, Welsh, Johnson, Gallagher, Keane and Garner. #PNElive
TEAM NEWS: Dimi, Kalas, Ayala, Fry, Friend, Adomah, Clayton, Leadbitter, Reach, Downing, Kike.
Jermaine Beckford has presented a schoolboy with a signed shirt after he had one snatched off him at WembleyRead the full story ›
Club responds after controversy over a shirt thrown to a young boy during Sunday's League One play-off final.Read the full story ›
Jermaine Beckford hit a Wembley hat-trick as Preston ended their play-off jinx at the 10th attempt.
The striker, fittingly wearing the number 10 shirt, wrote his name in North End folklore as they swept aside Swindon 4-0 to clinch promotion to the Sky Bet Championship, with Paul Huntington socring the other.
Preston manager Simon Grayson says he had to work hard to ensure he brought the squad back together after Graham Westley's spell in charge at Deepdale.
Wesley was a decisive character at Preston, coming in for criticism from players and fans alike, but Grayson has brought unity, proved by their play-off final place.
I didn’t think it could get much lower than it had in terms of the harmony between the supporters, players and the staff. When we came here there was a lot of negativity between the supporters and everybody else. That’s not helpful.
What we had to do straight away was get everyone back onside. That means winning games, getting the connection again and everybody – the players – coming in and enjoying work.
But also supporters coming and focusing on what they want to do and that’s support the club and the players who are playing. I think that had become a side issue. People weren’t coming in here to support the team, but to probably have a go at previous management staff.
That’s all history. What we have now is a unified club. Everybody wants the same thing. That’s played a massive part in the success in the two years we’ve been here.
Joe Garner will live every football fan's dream at Wembley on Sunday when he bids to fire boyhood club Preston to promotion with victory over Swindon in the Sky Bet League One play-off final.
The 27-year-old striker has already had a season he is unlikely to forget after his 25 league goals earned him the League One Player of the Year award.
Has he dreamed of scoring the winning goal in his first appearance at Wembley? "Definitely," he said.
"To score any goal there would be a nice feeling. Anybody growing up would want to do that for the team they supported. I'm really looking forward to the game."
Fans of Swindon and Preston could struggle to reach Wembley for next week's League One play-off final due to a lack of trains.Read the full story ›
Police investigating an alleged assault on Chesterfield player Ian Evatt have confirmed that they have arrested a man.
Preston North End booked their first trip to Wembley since 1994 on Sunday afternoon by defeating the Spireites 4-0 on aggregate in the League One play-off semi-finals and their supporters celebrated by rushing on to the turf at the final whistle.
Evatt was then surrounded and claimed he was punched, kicked and spat on during the pitch invasion.
Evatt, a former defender for Preston's bitter rivals Blackpool, provided Lancashire Police with a statement detailing his account of events.
The 33-year-old gave an account of what happened to BBC Radio 5Live: "It's well reported I'm an ex-Blackpool player. After the final whistle the Preston fans invaded the pitch. I was gathered around by a couple of hundred fans at least, shouting abuse, spitting, I got hit and kicked a couple of times."
A Joe Garner hat-trick against Swindon means Preston will take a point lead over MK Dons into the last game of the season.