Dave Seddon's verdict: Preston North End 1 West Bromwich Albion 1 - Towels, long throw-ins and another point for PNE

Glancing down the team sheet for Preston North End’s clash with West Bromwich Albion it was a little surprising not to see a pile of towels listed in the Baggies side.

By Dave Seddon
Sunday, 19th September 2021, 8:00 am

Four black towels were placed strategically around the side of the Deepdale pitch for Albion to dry the ball with before taking a long throw-in.

Hurling the ball into a crowded six-yard box seemed to be the staple diet of the visitors’ approach.

The ball would be dried on the towels before Albion arm muscles were flexed to deliver throw-ins goalwards.

Preston North End defender Patrick Bauer tackles West Bromwich Albion's Jordan Hugill at Deepdale

A funny moment of the game was the disappearance of the towel draped over the advertising boards at the front of the Invincibles Pavilion at the Kop end of the ground.

Said towel was to appear on a picture on social media after the match, in the hands of a North End supporter.

You couldn’t accuse WBA of not being organised, with a replacement swiftly put in position by their kitman.

I didn’t count how many long throws Valerien Ismael’s side sent in but there were many and in the main PNE dealt well with them.

Ben Whiteman runs to celebrate scoring for PNE against WBA

The one they didn’t cope with well was costly, a Darnell Furlong delivery flicking off Andrew Hughes’ head and flying across to the far post where Matt Phillip nodded home.

That was their equaliser in time added on at the end of the first half, Ben Whiteman having given PNE the lead 19 minutes earlier.

West Brom take the direct route a lot for a side containing lots of talent.

It was an approach which worked well for Ismael at Barnsley last season and he’s taken it to the Midlands.

Patrick Bauer is treated after getting a bang in the face

There are many aspects to their game, however packing the six-yard box with bodies at throw-ins and corners is the tactic which stands out.

Long throws aren’t new but seem to have grown in popularity of late.

PNE use them, Emil Riis stepping forward in the last couple of games to display that particular string to his bow.

But they’ve not mastered them to the extent the Baggies have, at least not in terms of getting them so close to goal.

Preston defenders Josh Earl and Andrew Hughes are in the thick of the action as they defend against West Brom

The first contact from a long throw is all important when defending them.

North End had done their homework, with either a head or Daniel Iversen’s gloves doing the job.

Frustratingly they got first contact to the one which Phillips scored from, Hughes just getting under the ball too much.

He didn’t deserve that, nor his fellow centre-halves who were very steady and stood up to the physical challenge.

A share of the spoils was the fair outcome, with little between the sides.

Like at Sheffield United last week, North End were content for Albion to have more of the ball but other than that pretty much matched them.

They got a slice of luck with their goal, Whiteman’s shot getting a hefty deflection to take it past Sam Johnstone.

Balancing that out was the ball coming off Hughes’ head for Phillips to level.

Perhaps near the end, PNE got another helping of luck with Jordan Hugill sending a tired shot straight at Iversen after being played into space in the box.

Had that one gone in though, it would have been harsh on PNE.

This was a third draw in a week for Frankie McAvoy’s side, a schedule which had a tough look about it.

Bristol City away, then to Sheffield United, before the Baggies visit to Lancashire.

The latter two are new down to the Championship from the Premier League.

In hindsight, not getting all three points at Ashton Gate might have been a missed opportunity.

However, last Tuesday night’s point and this one on Saturday were certainly not to be sniffed at.

Position wise, they have slipped in the table and are now 17th. It’s five unbeaten in the league though, the signs there that Preston are building into the campaign.

The side has evolved since those three defeats of a month or so ago, Josh Earl and Patrick Bauer having come into the side and made a big difference.

For me, they were PNE’s two best performers in this clash, Bauer doing so despite nursing a badly cut nose after connecting with Hugill’s arm.

The Preston faithful got their first look at Ali McCann, Connor Wickham and Josh Murphy, the trio of recent signings coming off the bench.

Certainly what they saw of McCann in his cameo suggests further evolution of the side in the weeks to come.

This contest had a good edge to it, Albion big and physical – PNE prepared to stand up to that.

It was a one referee Andy Davies found hard to keep a tight rein on. He booked Sepp van den Berg with barely three minutes played for a challenge on Grady Diangana.

A foul yes, a yellow card a touch harsh. Certainly the swinging arm of Hugill connecting with Bauer’s nose was worthy of more punishment than just a free-kick.

It probably wasn’t deliberate on Hugill’s part but was a touch reckless.

Bauer hadn’t been too long patched-up when he got his head to a Ryan Ledson’s corner but sent it wide.

That came as North End got a foothold in the first half and they were having a decent patch of play when they took a 26th minute lead.

Daniel Johnson beat Semi Ajayi to a bouncing ball a few yards from the edge of the box, with Riis taking possession from there.

The Dane’s pass inside found Whiteman who took a touch on the edge of the ‘D’ and struck a shot which hit Kyle Bartley on the shin and wrong footed Johnstone.

West Brom’s equaliser had a touch of controversy about it, in that Furlong stole a good 10 yards from where the ball had gone out of play.

The wing-back flung it into the mixer, it travelled across the six-yard box to Phillips to got the better of van den Berg to head in at the far post.

Play swung one way and then the other in the second half, Ledson’s volley from a McCann cross well saved by Johnstone who like four of his squad-mates, were once of this parish.

A collective breath was held when Hugill was played through in the box, the sigh of relief audible when he fired straight at Iversen.

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