Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick has admitted that Cameron Archer almost missed Saturday’s game against Preston North End.

It just had to happen, didn’t it?

PNE fans have been begging for Archer’s return to Lancashire ever since his loan spell from Aston Villa ended last summer.

Archer became a firm fan favourite at Deepdale, scoring seven goals in 20 games on loan at North End last season – including a winner against Blackpool.

No summer deal was possible and whilst PNE tried again for January, it wasn’t to be.

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Archer instead made a loan move to Middlesbrough, joining Michael Carrick’s promotion-chasing side until the summer.

The 21-year-old had notched four goals and two assists in 11 appearances before North End rolled into town on Saturday.

Archer added two more goals to his tally with a superb display against North End, driving two shots past Freddie Woodman.

Archer also set up Chuba Akpom’s opener as Boro ran riot in a 4-0 thrashing over PNE.

There were no celebrations from Archer as he respected his time at North End and paid tribute to the travelling fans on Gentry Day.

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That doesn’t really cushion the blow of a thumping defeat and Archer scoring against PNE, but it’s something.

Boro boss Carrick has now admitted that Archer was actually struggling ahead of the game and nearly missed out.

Carrick has told Teesside Live that Archer actually picked up an ankle injury in training on Friday and was ‘touch and go’ to face PNE.

Archer passed a late fitness test and put North End to the sword before being taken off as a precaution one he had done his damage.

“Whether he was extra motivated or not, I don’t think so because Cam’s performances of late and the way he goes about it, he’s highly motivated anyway,” said Carrick.

“He loves scoring goals as strikers do, and feeds off that. But even when he hasn’t scored his performances have been good anyway and we’ve still scored goals throughout the team. It was a good day for Cam though and it was nice to see him score a couple. He actually got a roll of the ankle yesterday and was touch and go. He had a late fitness test today, so credit to him that he was desperate to play. We took him off in the end, more as a precaution and hopefully he is alright,” he added.

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