Dave Seddon's verdict: West Bromwich Albion 0 Preston North End 2 - Victory at The Hawthorns was 48 years in the making

Preston North End got up close and personal to record a long-overdue victory in West Bromwich Albion’s back yard.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 12:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th January 2022, 12:42 pm

Emil Riis was almost on the goalline when he scored the Lilywhites’ opener.

Debutant Cameron Archer then showed us what he could do from three yards for the second which was the signal for The Hawthorns to empty.

How refreshing it was to see PNE on the money in the six-yard box, being in the right areas to poach goals on the end of good build-up play.

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Cameron Archer scores on his Preston North End debut against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns

Not since October 1973 had North End won at The Hawthorns, an era when Bobby Charlton was manager.

Since then they had been beaten 11 times in a row in their visits to Sandwell.

Little wonder there were jubilant scenes in the away section as 1,000 or so PNE fans celebrated.

Ryan Lowe was very much the ringmaster of those celebrations, fist-pumping in front of the faithful in reaction to a third win of his tenure.

Alan Browne, Cameron Archer, Greg Cunningham and Brad Potts celebrate PNE's second goal at West Bromwich Albion

The contrast in mood between Albion and Preston couldn’t have been greater.

Baggies supporters didn’t hide their dislike of head coach Valerien Ismael’s up-and-at-them approach.

It carried Barnsley to the play-offs last season but Ismael replicating those ideas in the Midlands is going down like a lead balloon.

For a spell the home fans chanted the name of former boss Slavan Bilic and told Ismael in no uncertain terms where he could go.

Emil Riis gives North End the lead at West Bromwich Albion

North End had a downbeat period earlier in the season but right now the direction of traffic is going the right way under Lowe.

It was his side playing all the football against fifth-place WBA and who inflicted a first home league defeat of the season on them.

The players have embraced Lowe’s style and while it is a work in progress, they are steadily picking it up.

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Preston manager Ryan Lowe shows his delight at the final whistle at The Hawthorns

Once North End were able to get the ball on the deck, they showed what could be done.

The moves for both goals were along the ground, Lowe’s men cutting open their hosts.

Riis and particularly Archer on his debut, made the headlines with their goals.

However, this was a job well done all over the pitch.

Albion, boasting a front three of Grady Diangana, Karlan Grant and Matt Phillips, didn’t manage a shot on target.

Callum Robinson came to replace Phillips in the second half but could little to dent his former employers.

PNE were solid at the back and creative in their midfield play. Left wing-back Greg Cunningham finished the night with two assists and was very good throughout.

A better script could not have been written for Archer, the borrowed striker scoring within 11 minutes of coming off the bench.

For an Aston Villa player and fan, a debut goal could not have come at many better venues than this one did.

One of the three changes made by Lowe caught many of us off guard, Ryan Ledson the man chosen to replace Daniel Johnson who is away on duty with Jamaica.

We’d been expecting Ali McCann but it was Ledson who got the nod next to Alan Browne. He was very good, justifying his selection.

North End carved out some good chances in the first half and they deserved the lead given to them by Riis in the 41st minute.

Ledson’s pass found Ched Evans down the left channel who worked some space and played it back inside to Ben Whiteman. His first-time pass played in Cunningham behind the home defence.

Cunningham drove in a cross which looped off Kyle Bartley towards goal and was prodded in by the out-stretched right boot of Riis.

It was Riis who gave way to Archer in the 65th minute, then Sean Maguire took over from a limping Evans.

North End countered Albion in the build-up to Archer’s goal.

Browne led the charge down the left-wing and started to cut towards the box, slipping a pass on the outside to Cunningham who was overlapping.

Cunningham’s shot was pushed up into the air by keeper David Button, Archer reacting first to jump and head into the roof of the net.