West Bromwich Albion 2 - Preston North End 0
Another really solid performance where we again were too quick and powerful for our opponents.
Harper came in for Sawyers but we were otherwise unchanged and it seemed to me that Livermore sat deeper in the Sawyers role with Harper given more license to charge about.
I thought he had a really good game - physically stronger than Sawyers, capable of eating up ground on the run and more direct with his passing. If I had any criticism it would be that one or twice he had the ball and open grass in front of him that you just wanted him to drive into but he chose to pass. Anyway, I thought on this showing he’s going to give Sawyers serious competition.
In the opening spell I thought Preston were easy on the eye and interesting tactically, they drew in our press with short passes then went long in behind our full backs with two players running into the space. They also kept hitting long spreaded passes to the opposite wing to switch on us quickly and I thought they caused us problems with both.
However in our first meaningful attack they buckled - Robinson put a decent cross in but HRK was given space and ages of time to chest it, hold them off and bundle the ball over the line.
From then on we were dominant with Pereira untouchable and Robinson should’ve scored a couple having been played in several times.
It looked like we might have blown our best spell but at the end of it an almost identical cross from Robinson on the right this time looked like HRK would chest and smack home but, despite his chest touch being heavy, nobody was around to stop Livermore striding in to hammer the ball home with his left foot. A great finish.
The second half was game management. I can’t recall SJ having to make a save, we kept the ball well and created chances without really getting out of second gear.
I thought the sending off was harsh on them, maybe even 5 years ago wouldn’t have been a foul, and it ended any Preston ambition so it was a bit like a friendly after that. Our subs came on and looked strong again. Not only would our subs walk into any other team in this league but our squad players missing out would and possibly even last season’s retiree (Mozza) would. Bilic and Dicks might even get a game for anyone in the bottom half. It’s not a vintage year.
On we go - I’ll disappointingly have to miss Saturday’s game. We really need to savour these last matches because this team is something special and the Mowbray championship winning side reminds us that the team that starts matches next season might not be as good as this one. For Phillips and Gera read Grady, Robinson and Krovi.
I watched this match on IFollow tv - courtesy of my son.I feared the worst as ever - on tenterhooks until the end. However the performance was outstanding, especially picking up the loose ball from tackles and covering off the ball , it was always 2 to 1 at least. Preston drooped after the rather harsh sending off but we continued to press. The back four were excellent especially the centre two, and Harper slotted in seamlessly.
I shall revert to learning the result v Wigan at 4.55 as usual, wth 50 years of largely destroyed hope melting away. A very positive performance.
BAGGIES UNBEATEN IN FOUR AND SEVEN POINTS FROM PLAY-OFFS
Albion netted twice in the first half against Preston North End at The Hawthorns on their way to a comfortable victory against another promotion candidate. The clubs were the top two form teams before the match and the visitors were undefeated in their last six away games, but despite this, they seldom troubled the Baggies goal. They had a player dismissed just after the hour mark and the only criticism that could be aimed at the home team is that they didn’t take advantage of the extra man.
Slaven Bilic made one change, bringing in Rakeem Harper for the suspended Sawyers.
The Baggies made a great start, opening the scoring in the 6th minute. Robinson made a strong run down the left wing and hit a pinpoint cross for Hal Robson-Kanu, who chested the ball down before turning to fire left footed past the keeper from the edge of the six-yard box, for his 10th goal of the season. Albion created three chances, keeper Rudd made routine saves from Pereira and Krovinovic, but was forced into a one-handed diving save to keep out an angled drive by Robinson. Preston threatened with a diving header from Nugent which drifted wide. Robinson, against his old club, was again played in on goal, but Rudd raced out to block. In the 45th minute, Albion got a thoroughly deserved second goal. This time Robinson was on the right wing and crossed for Robson-Kanu, who had pulled away from his marker. He again chested down, but it was Jake Livermore, who had started the move, who timed his run into the box and fired home left-footed from near the penalty spot.
Albion continued to dominate and when a corner was only cleared to the edge of the area, Hegazi was unlucky to see his drive flash past the left-hand post. In the 64th minute, as Albion were building a move in front of the Halfords Lane Stand, Fisher followed through with a reckless tackle on Robinson and was shown a straight red card. From then on, we were mostly content to pass the ball around, rather than press for additional goals. In the final minute, Grosicki and Phillips did combine to set up a chance for Austin, only for a defender to react quickest and clear, but only as far as Livermore, who slipped the ball inside to Harper on the edge of the box. The youngster chipped for the top corner and was unlucky to see the ball clip the top of the bar.
We thoroughly deserved to win the game; with thirty shots to the visitors’ five, none of which were on target. The defence, particularly Ajayi and Hegazi, were solid. The combination of Pereira, Krovinovic, Robinson and Robson-Kanu were at times unplayable. However, Jake Livermore, in the best form of his Albion career, earns my man-of-the-match award.
I liked the TV analysis for February; Albion have played 6, won 5 and drawn 1, scored 13 and conceded 3, but tellingly only allowed their opponents six shots on target.
In 1888/89 Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion were both founder members of the Football League. Our first meeting on home soil, on Boxing Day, at Stoney Lane, was a disaster. Perhaps “The Invincibles”, as they were then known, were seeking revenge for our FA Cup Final victory against them nine months earlier, but they won 5-0, their biggest ever away win over the Baggies. In 1953/54 we won 3-2 against North End on Saturday 2nd January at The Hawthorns, with two goals from Ronnie Allen and one by Johnny Nicholls. This followed up a 2-0 triumph at Deepdale earlier in the season. We weren’t finished, on Saturday 1st May, at Wembley in the FA Cup Final, we triumphed 3-2, making Preston the only club we’ve defeated in two finals. Our current run of consecutive home league victories over the Lilywhites stands at a phenomenal ten, stretching almost 47 years, we’ve scored 27 and conceded only 8.
Overall, in league football, we’ve won against Preston 41 times, losing 37. There are only three clubs in the Championship that we’ve beaten more times; Nottingham Forest 52, Birmingham City 51 and Stoke City 46.
ALBION FORMRATE: GOOD
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: JAKE LIVERMORE
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