Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End's unbeaten run at Deepdale in ended in cruel fashion by West Bromwich Albion

With Preston North End’s form at Deepdale being so strong this season it was going to take something a bit special or controversial to inflict a first home defeat.

Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd December 2019, 12:32 pm
Preston players make their feelings known to referee Oliver Langford after the final whistle against West Bromwich Albion

Unfortunately it was the latter and in the most galling of circumstances too.

West Bromwich substitute Kyle Edwards went to ground as it took the ball past Declan Rudd having chased a pass into the box in the 89th minute.

Referee Oliver Langford pointed to the spot but when he sees it again, will have realised he made a mistake.

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Charlie Austin beats Declan Rudd from the penalty spot

There was no contact between PNE keeper Rudd and Edwards, whether it be a stumble or an act of simulation.

We had the benefit of replays with the game being shown live on Sky Sports although even at first glance it looked dubious.

Those replays showed that Mr Langford was quite a distance from the decision and begs the question, how good was his view? With a big call like that, in the closing minutes of a game involving teams at the top end of the Championship, it needed to be right.

It wasn’t the correct call and PNE paid the penalty – literally.

Preston's Sean Maguire gets away from Matt Phillips

Charlie Austin buried the spot-kick and Albion went home with three points, the first side to leave Deepdale with three points since Leeds on April 9. This season, Bristol City and Leeds had got a draw visiting PR1, while seven others had left with nothing.

The Lilywhites deserved a draw from this one and were minutes away from doing so.

Alex Neil had put out a patched-up back four and they did a fine job in holding the division’s leading scorers at bay for so long.

The fact it took a dubious penalty to breach them tells the story. Paul Huntington’s last start in the Championship had been way back on January 12 in a 1-1 draw with Swansea.

Preston striker Jayden Stockley gets some close attention from the West Bromwich Albion defence

He played in this one like he had never been away, Jordan Storey ably assisting him in the centre of defence.

Joe Rafferty we have become accustomed to playing out of position at left-back and he did so again on Monday night.

On the other side of the pitch Alan Browne was very good at right-back.

While Ryan Ledson had been a square peg in a round hole playing there at Hull last week, Browne looked almost the perfect fit despite that not being his natural role.

Preston keeper Declan Rudd at the final whistle

Further up the pitch the options were more plentiful for Neil, although he had to do without Paul Gallagher.

When you bear his absence in mind, together with those at the back, the sense of frustration just deepens that North End had a point whipped away from them.

The set-up saw Ben Pearson in the holding midfield role, Daniel Johnson and Brad Potts pushed higher.

Tom Barkhuizen and Sean Maguire operated down the sides, with Jayden Stockley recalled to lead the line.

The first half was all about survival, keeping a good shape against in-form Albion.

It needed a couple of saves from Rudd to maintain parity, one to tip over a drive from Nathan Ferguson, the other to stop Matt Phillips’ shot after he turned in the box.

North End carried more of a threat after the interval and their best two chances came in the space of 60 seconds or so.

Maguire weaved past a couple of Albion players before squaring a pass to Johnson on the edge of the box.

The midfielder curled a left-foot shot towards the bottom corner, one which Sam Johnstone - the former PNE loan keeper - managed to touch past the post at full stretch. Browne delivered the corner from the left which came off a Baggies head and dropped to the far side of the box.

Potts and Maguire closed down Kyle Bartley who was on the ball, Maguire pulling back a low cross into the middle.

Browne had followed in after taking the corner and met it with a low shot which Ferguson slid across to clear.

Albion’s penalty came on the counter-attack, Edwards getting past Storey to get into the box where all the controversy reared up.

It was so harsh on PNE, their performance several layers higher than that produced at Hull.

Encouragement from defeat but the losing run needs to be halted quickly.