West Bromwich Albion demolished Preston North End’s perfect home record and inflicted a particularly heavy first defeat of the season on the Lilywhites at soggy Deepdale on Saturday, in what can only be described as one of the best all-round performances of Carlos Corberan’s reign – and in general, away from home, for years.
Darnell Furlong and Alex Mowatt fired goals in the first half, before Matt Phillips and Kyle Bartley added further strikes in the second. The goals, the clean sheet and the three points were truly well deserved.
Albion couldn’t have produced a better start. The timing of the goal, the quality of it too. It began on the left, when Erik Pieters fed Matt Phillips. He played a one-two with John Swift on the edge of the area and teed up Furlong, who drilled a brilliantly executed strike, first time, from the edge of the D into the corner. Suffice to say, the other end of Deepdale exploded.
Albion continued to be good value for their lead, after coping with a modest North End reply. Across the board they were sharp, decisive and positive when in possession. The second goal came as a result of the quick thinking of keeper Alex Palmer, who had claimed a free kick and instantly got Albion moving through Grady Diangana.
He advanced to the edge of the area, picked out Swift, whose lay off for Mowatt was undercooked and cut out by Jordan Storey, but the North End defender made a mess of his clearance and the ball, originally intended for Mowatt, was picked up by the midfielder and calmly slotted home.
Preston surely wouldn’t be as poor in the second half, and half times can often arrive for the winning side at an inconvenient time when they’re in full flow, but Albion merely returned to the field, picked up where they left off and – eventually – they put the game to bed. After Diangana had gone close and Jed Wallace blocked off inside the area, Phillips – who had also almost converted before doing so – killed the contest when fed by Swift.
Albion were really enjoying themselves now. The 2000 fans behind the goal were olé-ing, demanding more goals from a side whose collective confidence levels were visibly soaring. They’d have their wish before the end, too, when Bartley applied the finishing touch when showing more desire than his man to meet a Wallace free kick.
A tremendous day out for the supporters, and a serious message sent to the Championship.
West Brom player ratings
Dominant and decisive in the air, when coming for set-pieces. His quick thinking and accurate kicking got Albion moving for Mowatt’s goal. An observer in the second half.
There’s an irony about the fact that the moment he was shuffled back into a conventional right-back role, he popped up on the edge of the area! The early goal was a thing of beauty and no top striker in Europe could’ve finished it any better. Like Wallace at Watford, an early goal brings confidence and this was no coincidence that his best performance of the season followed.
Quickly becoming a key player for Corberan. His passess into the channels are suitably weighted and accurate, and he loves a crunching challenge. So measured when on the ball and his decision making is increasingly improved. Restored to the XI but it was like he’d never been out of it.
Continued in the starting XI with Ajayi absent. Rock solid in the middle, in an unfamiliar partnership with Kipre. Does the basics really well, dominant in the air and helped himself to his first goal of the season, since the start of Corberan’s reign, at the end.
Playing at left-back, Pieters was calm on the ball and helped Albion on their way to the opening goal with a contribution in the build up. Body on the line time and again. His flexibility and professionalism are crucial to Corberan.
A goal, an assist and an all-round excellent performance on the left for Phillips, who had a little more freedom in his winger role with Pieters directly behind him. Composed on the ball to tee up Furlong and he might’ve had a couple of goals on another day. Keeping Phillips fit and in top form remains key.
This was more like it from Yokuslu, who was committed in the challenge and composed in possession. Drilled a wonderful through ball for Wallace which came to nothing, but there was an obvious connection with Mowatt. An imperious figure in the middle throughout the contest.
You’re left wondering why we haven’t seen more of him in the last 12 months, why Bruce loaned him out and why Corberan has delayed his participation. Took his goal with all the composure you could hope for from a player in that position. Won some important free kicks to disrupt PNE. Threw his body on the line even at 3-0 up. His one-touch passing was excellent.
Spoke to the local press this week of his desire to improve his all-round performances so far, despite his healthy goal haul. Played a hand in both first half goals, although was a little fortunate with the second, but his pass for Phillips was superb. Back in his usual ten role, his role out of possession in assisting Wallace was key.
Can frustrate, even now, but when Diangana is on it he is more than a handful for any Championship full-back. Tricky with his dribbling but disappointed with his end product in the first half. Almost scored in the second and was just too much for Millar – so much so that Robbie Brady was brought on at the break.
Led the line alone, an unfamiliar role in that respect but some of his runs to drag the Preston defence here and there were key for Albion’s playmakers. Had a couple of digs at goal in the first half and played his part in eye-catching moves, while leading the press. Brought energy and leadership to ensure Albion remained professional. Assist at the end for Bartley.
Sarmiento (for Diangana 66) 7
Kept Albion’s front-line earnest with a fresh injection of energy and life. Game situation suited his style. Some lovely skill on display but could’ve released the ball quicker for Wallace in a breakaway.
Molumby (for Yokuslu 66) 7
One of Albion’s most energetic and tireless players, not a bad substitution to be able to make with a quarter of the game to play. Won free kicks, killed time and dragged Albion away and up towards their fans when Preston probed.
Chalobah (for Swift 78)
Townsend (for Pieters 78)
Pipa (for Phillips 84)
Substitutes not used: Griffiths, Fellows, Thomas-Asante, Taylor
Preston North End starting XI: Woodman; Potts, Storey, Lindsay, Hughes, Miller; McCann (Brady HT), Ledson (Whiteman 63), Holmes (Frokjaer 63), Browne; Osmajic (Keane 63)
Substitutes not used: Stewart, Cunningham, Woodburn, Cornell, Whatmough
PNE – ; WBA – Furlong 4, Mowatt 29, Phillips 62, Bartley 88