Middlesbrough took a step closer to dropping out of the play-off places on Wednesday night, when they slumped to a 2-1 defeat against the in-form Preston North End at the Riverside Stadium.
Boro started the game well, and took a slender lead into half-time, with Ashley Fletcher having opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, notching his third goal in his last five Championship outings.
However, centre-back Daniel Ayala’s 61st minute sending off turned the tide of the encounter in North End’s favour. Boro boss Tony Pulis failed to respond to the dismissal effectively, and the home side couldn’t withstand the pressure that their opponents began to exert.
Paul Gallagher and Jayden Stockley scored the goals that secured an impressive comeback for Alex Neil’s side.
The decision to show the 28-year-old Spanish defender a red card certainly changed the game, and it was also a controversial call given some feel that Ayala made a fair challenge.
After the match, plenty of Boro fans took to Twitter to give their verdict on the sending off…
Danny Ayala needs a new challenge, lad still thinks he’s the best CB in the league and doesn’t realise that was 4 year ago. Dives into challenges, pulls in the box and gives the ref an option. George needs to move on, finished. Flint is the worst I’ve ever seen. Spuds r us.
— Gavin Jackson (@gavsyjackson) 13 March 2019
— Magic Matty (@magic_mattyc) 13 March 2019
Football really is finished, someone explain to me what Ayala is supposed to do when he’s last man and sprinting across to stop a player being 1v1 with the keeper? Have hard tackles just been completely outlawed now? Embarrassing refereeing #borolive
— Danny Taylor (@DannyTaylorDT) 13 March 2019
Daniel Ayala should not wear @Boro shirt again after that but think ref got it wrong
— Keith Watson (@wato6282) 13 March 2019
— . (@SugarFreeStuani) 13 March 2019
Ready made excuse for Tony Pulis with Ayala being shown red. Doesn’t matter that we should be killing teams like this off #borolive
— Adrian Green (@ado141) 13 March 2019
Embarrassing mate, Never a red card or even a foul for that matter. Efl referees summed up in a nut shell right there. Destroyed our game
— Smoggy (@Smoggy186) 13 March 2019
How many times Ayala, he is an absolute joke of a player. Besic messing around with the ball, howson gives it away and Ayala clatters their player. To top it off the wall is non existent and they score from the FK. Only 1 winner now.
— George Simpson (@Simmo649) 13 March 2019