Keeper Darren Randolph says that Middlesbrough must get used to clubs raising their game against the Teessiders.
Boro were held to a goalless draw by hard-working visitors Preston on Saturday to reach the international break on seven points from five Championship matches.
Garry Monk’s men were indebted to ex-West Ham goalie Randolph for a series of fine saves as the off-colour hosts struggled for balance and fluidity.
“I didn’t expect to be as busy as I was but that’s what’s needed in the tight games,” said Ireland cap Randolph.
“We were second to every ball, which makes it harder for us, especially when we’re at home. It was obvious they were very organised and they made it tough.
“But you have to expect that level from teams in this league, they are all going to fight and battle, not just let you turn up and win.
“It’s only natural that teams will raise their game - all eyes are on us.”
Preston were the better side from the off, with a fine Randolph stop and the woodwork denying Tom Barkhuizen.
Hopes that regrouping at the interval would cure Middlesbrough’s ills proved misguided as the Deepdale outfit continued to control proceedings.
Yet a deserved winner was not forthcoming, with Randolph on hand to deny skipper Paul Huntington from six yards in the second period.
Boro, for all the poverty of their play, should have had a sixth-minute lead.
Britt Assombalonga found space 40 yards from goal, raced forward, beat two defenders – only to overrun the ball into goalkeeper Chris Maxwell when trying to take on another despite having Fabio free to his left.
Boss Monk conceded that Boro fell some way short of their standards, but was relieved to come away with a point despite the display.
“That was not the performance we wanted,” he said. “We are trying to set a high standard for the players and the club – and we feel disappointment.
“Overall, we didn’t do the basics well enough. You have to get the nuts and bolts right and we didn’t.
“We need to take a lesson from today and we never came out on top of them in any instance. They were first to every header, every tackle.
“The positive is that we still take a point and got a clean sheet. The point could be valuable, but we wanted three. But I think we were probably lucky to get the result we did.”
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Fry, Gibson, Friend (Bamford 55), Christie, Baker (Downing 68), Howson, Clayton, Da Silva, Gestede, Assombalonga. Subs Not Used: Konstantopoulos, Ayala, Leadbitter, Fletcher, Roberts. Booked: Clayton.
Preston North End: Maxwell, Fisher, Huntington, Davies, Earl, Pearson (Harrop 70), Sean Maguire (Robinson 90), Johnson, Browne, Barkhuizen (Mavididi 75), Hugill. Subs not used: Vermijl, Horgan, Spurr, Hudson. Booked: Pearson, Harrop.
Ref: Darren England (South Yorkshire).