West Bromwich Albion had to make do with a point thanks to Matt Phillips in a dire draw at Preston North End which leaves them still unbeaten after eight games, but have managed only three points from as many games and another less than palatable performance.
Phillips’ header in first half stoppage time cancelled out a deflected Ben Whiteman opener and, despite a rally at the end, it was all the Baggies could manage.
Valerien Ismael handed starts to Phillips and Jordan Hugill, after he called on them at half time in the week, and Albion started pretty brightly without testing Daniel Iversen.
But that early dominance swiftly made way to a response from Preston. Sean Maguire, Ryan Ledson and Daniel Johnson caused problems in between the lines, but the quality was lacking.
There was more fortune than quality about the hosts’ opener, not that they’d have cared a jot. Phillips’ poor pass, when under no significant pressure, was seized upon and Whiteman’s low shot from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection off of Kyle Bartley which carried the ball past Johnstone, who had moved to dive in the opposite direction.
Albion, behind for the first time since the opening night of their season, weren’t just trailing. They ragged, their passing was all over the place and they were failing to muster and real obvious opportunities, or even maintain periods of extended pressure.
Their get out of jail free card landed in stoppage time. Darnell Furlong’s long throw, after a number of games where that particular weapon had been blunted, bore fruit once more.
This one was flicked on to the back post, where Phillips was waiting and he gleefully nodded home despite the efforts of keeper Iversen, who was furious that the officials hadn’t pulled play back for impeding him.
That oughtn’t have changed Ismael’s team talk too much. Albion were really poor for the most part but had found parity before returning to the dressing room. Improvement was still needed.
The performance levels improved a little in the second half. Phillips curled over after good work from Livermore and Diangana, but in truth the Baggies never really got any closer than that.
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Ismael summoned Karlan Grant, and then Callum Robinson, but neither substitute was able to make any more of an impact than Phillips or Diangana. Mind you, Johnstone was barely troubled at the other end, save for a routine stop to deny a low drive from Ledson.
The big moment in the game, the real chance for Albion to smash and grab and ensure they took three points from an utterly forgettable encounter which was devoid of quality throughout, was at the death.
Preston lost their composure momentarily and Hugill was played in, inside the box, but he fluffed his lines and all he could muster was an extremely tame attempt that Iversen could’ve thrown a blanket over.
No more questions have been answered here – Albion come away with another point to add to their tally, but the disgruntlement would appear to rumble on based on audible boos at the final whistle.
Wrong footed for the opening goal, when his weight leaned to the right, but the ball went left after a wicked deflection. Commanded his box well throughout and made one smart save from Ledson that you’d expect from him.
The long throw produced another goal, but the quality of many of Furlong’s set-pieces left a lot to be desired. Crosses from open play seemed to cause more uncertainty in the Preston defence.
Endured a torrid first half. Simple passes were sent astray and headers didn’t find teammates. Lack of communication with Livermore almost led to a Preston second before Albion levelled up. Did seem to improve in the second period.
Pretty unfortunate to have played a hand in the opener, when his attempts to block Whiteman’s shot only ended up carrying the ball beyond Johnstone.
Still filling in on the left hand side of the back three for the balance he brings, Townsend showed that he is – understandably – not a long-term option there. Emil Riis was an imposing aerial danger and positionally there were one or two question marks. Once back at left wing back where he excels, the better.
Not as impressive as he was in the week. Began some smart moves on the but the delivery into the box was often lacking. There were one or two occasions in the second half when Townsend – himself not used to the current role he’s deploying – was left exposed.
Got about the pitch as he often does, but Albion needed a little more composure and communication from their skipper in key moments. As mentioned, a mix up with Ajayi almost led to a Preston goal, while a collision with Bartley in the opposing box cost him a goal himself.
Busy in the middle of the park. His performance was one of the brighter displays in the Albion XI, though he wasn’t able to affect the score-line in any way.
Dreadful pass out from the back under little pressure led to falling behind. Phillips had been doing okay up until that point, but he made up for his error by being in the right place at the back post to score his second of the season.
Rewarded for some more positive displays in recent weeks with an extended run in the starting XI. Looked bright early on, though not much came off for him. Charged down the keeper and rolled the ball home, only for his block to be deemed a foul. Unable to make any significant headway.
It was quite lonely for Hugill for the most part of his full Albion debut. Continued to try and make things happen, looked to receive the ball in the channels and bring others into play, but it was hard work. Ran into a colossal performance from Bauer too. Really poor effort at the death when played in.
Grant (for Diangana 63) 5
Some purpose towards the end of the game but this was a largely ineffective cameo.
Robinson (for Phillips 69) 5
A familiar stomping ground for Robinson, but no fairytale return here. Was nullified for the most part of his appearance.
Subs not used: Button, Molumby, Kipre, Taylor, Snodgrass
Preston North End: Iversen; Van Den Berg, Bauer, Hughes, Earl, Whiteman (McCann 64), Ledson, Storey, Johnson, Riis (Murphy 83), Maguire (Wickham 64)
Subs not used: Rudd, Cunningham, Lindsay, Potts
Preston – Whiteman 26; Albion – Phillips 45
The ref: Mr A Davies
Up next: Queens Park Rangers (h) – Friday 24 September, KO 8pm