Dave Seddon's verdict: West Bromwich Albion 2 Preston North End 0 - Hawthorns defeat a familiar feeling for PNE
Sir Bobby Charlton had just dipped his toe into football management and Wizzard were No.1 in the charts with Angel Fingers when Preston North End last won at The Hawthorns in September 1973.
So an 11th successive defeat on West Bromwich Albion’s home patch for the Lilywhites didn’t come as too much of a surprise on Tuesday night.
From the sixth minute when they fell behind, there was an air of inevitability that they were going to leave the Midlands empty-handed.
They were second best all over the pitch to the Baggies who cemented their place at the top of the table and pushed closer to making a return to the Premier League.
The hosts scoring again on the stroke of half-time made North End’s task an uphill one, with it being game over when Darnell Fisher was sent-off in the 64th minute.
Let’s be thankful for small mercies that Albion didn’t score again in the remaining 26 minutes against 10 men.
Declan Rudd was the one PNE player who came out of the game with any decent amount of credit.
The goalkeeper twice denied former team-mate Callum Robinson in one-on-one scenarios.
Later Rudd tipped a shot from Charlie Austin over the bar, while over the course of the piece he also dealt with a couple more routine efforts.
For Preston’s shortcomings on the night, let us give plenty of credit to the home side.
For a spell in the first-half, Slaven Bilic’s men were a real force sweeping forward.
Matheus Pereira led the way from the right channel, Robinson a big threat down the left. Filip Kronvinovic and Hal Robson-Kanu asked questions centrally, ones for a spell PNE couldn’t answer.
Interestingly, Baggies boss Slaven Bilic admitted taking a leaf out of PNE’s book in his tactical approach.
“Don’t forget we knew who we were playing against, we were playing against a team who is normally very intense, maybe the best in transitions,” said Bilic.
“I’ve said that I admire Alex’s work and the way they play. We did to them was they were planning to do to us.
“In terms of intensity, pressing, second balls, that gave us the platform to get the balls in the dangerous areas to go at them, to catch them in transition.”
This was PNE’s first away defeat since December 7, with them having drawn three and won three in the meantime.
It didn’t actually do a great deal of damage, Bristol City losing at Huddersfield Town keeping them at arm’s length.
Above them, Brentford lost surprisingly to Luton, so Alex Neil’s men stayed level on points with the Bees.
Selection wise, there were recalls for Daniel Johnson, Alan Browne and David Nugent.
After all-but ruling him out at Monday’s press conference, Neil being able to call on the services of Johnson came as a surprise.
Browne coming off the bench to net the winner against Hull earned him a place in midfield, with Nugent leading the attack.
Jayden Stockley, who like Browne had made a decent impact as a sub on Saturday, could perhaps count himself unlucky not to have started.
Down to the bench went Scott Sinclair and Paul Gallagher, with a tight hamstring ruling out Josh Harrop.
Chances wise, North End didn’t lay a glove on their hosts. They failed to register a shot on target over the course of a chilly night.
Albion went in front when Robinson’s cross from the left channel found Robson-Kanu who found space between Ben Davies and Andrew Hughes to bring the ball down and shoot past Rudd.
Aside from two Nugent headers which went over and wide, the first half belonged to the home side.
Just as it looked like PNE would get to half-time with a one-goal deficit, Albion scored again.
Another Robinson cross, this time from the right, was chested down by Robson-Kanu into the path of Livermore who swept home a good finish.
Fisher saw red when he slid in to challenge Robinson.
In real time it didn’t look the best tackle but replays showed the right-back might have been hard done by.