West Bromwich Albion 4 Preston North End 1 - Match report on a poor Gentry Day for PNE at the Hawthorns
Preston North End crashed to a heavy defeat against West Bromwich Albion on Gentry Day at the Hawthorns.
The game was played against the background of North End boss Alex Neil being strongly linked with the head coach vacancy at Albion.
Whether or not that had any affect, it was a very poor performance from the Lilywhites who were rarely in the game.
Three goals in 15 minutes towards the end of the first half did the damage.
Dwight Gayle netted two of them with Jay Rodriguez getting the third.
Gayle, on loan from Newcastle United, completed his hat-trick in the second half with Albion's fourth.
North End;s consolation goal arrived from Callum Robinson in stoppage-time, the substitute firing home a cross from Lukas Nmecha.
The defeat meant bitter disappointment to the 2,752 Preston supporters who made the trip to the Midlands to celebrate this year's Gentry Day.
Many wore bowler hats and they kept on singing all the way through despite the performance they saw on the pitch.
North End's side had shown three changes to the one beaten by Leeds last Tuesday, with Paul Gallagher, Ryan Ledson and Jayden Stockley coming into the side.
The tale of the first half was the three goals from the Baggies in a 15-minute spell towards the end of it.
They'd had the better of the play until the goals but without particularly posing a threat.
Declan Rudd showed he was alert to dash out of his box and kick clear from Stefan Johansen as he ran clear to chase Sam Johnstone's big goal kick.
The PNE goalkeeper helped a shot from Rodriguez over the bar with a fingertip save in the 19th minute, the resulting corner from Chris Brunt met at the far post by Kyle Bartley who headed into the side-netting.
North End's first decent sight of goal came in the 26th minute when a Gallagher free-kick from the right was flicked on by Stockley before being half-cleared by the home defence.
The ball fell to Ben Davies on the edge of the box, his shot clipping off an Albion defender and running through to keeper Johnstone.
West Brom took the lead in the 28th minute, Brunt's diagonal ball catching out Davies and allowing Gayle to meet it on the volley, his shot going across Rudd into the far corner.
Three minutes later that lead was doubled, North End creating their own trouble in the build-up.
Josh Earl won a tussle with Mason Holgate on PNE's left side and instead of playing the ball up the wing, chose to knock it square inside.
Gayle intercepted and when he tried to lay if off to Rodriguez, the ball hit a Preston leg and broke instead to Johansen.
He slotted a pass back to Gayle who shot low past Rudd.
North End lost Gallagher to injury in the 41st minute, the skipper having tried to play on after getting a bang on the shin in a challenge with Holgate a few minutes earlier.
Robinson replaced him and the change had only just been made when the home got their third goal.
Johansen's threaded low pass cut the PNE defence open and Rodriguez ran clear to shoot past Rudd.
At the interval, Sean Maguire replaced Stockley up front.
Preston certainly played with more purpose in the opening stages of the second half, Robinson going close when his shot was blocked in the six-yard box by Craig Dawson at the expense of a corner.
Soon after that, his clever pass played in Lukas Nmecha behind the Albion back line on the right hand of the box but the loanee's cut-back was too severe and behind intended target Maguire.
Robinson was a coat of boot polish away from connecting with Nmecha's low cross, North End's attacking play having more purpose to it at that stage.
The Baggies made it 4-0 in the 71st minute as Gayle completed his hat-trick.
Rudd had dived full length across his goal to push a Gayle free-kick past the far post, it being from the resulting corner that the goal came.
When the flag kick came over, a scramble ensued in the six-yard box and Gayle nodded in.
It was one-way traffic from then on as the hosts looked for a fifth goal and PNE - drained of confidence - offered little resistance.
Rudd made saves from Bartley, Rodriguez and Matt Phillips in the closing stages to keep the score down.
North End, who gave Josh Ginnelly his debut in the 87th minute as a substitute for Browne, pulled a goal back a minute of stoppage-time.
Nmecha's low cross from the right found Robinson 12 yards out who picked his spot with a low right-foot shot.
WBA: Johnstone, Bartley, Dawson, Hegazi (Adarabioyo 52), Holgate, Johansen, Brunt, Livermore (Philips 70), Gibbs (Townsend 61), Rodrigeuz, Gayle. Subs (not used): Robson-Kanu, Harper, Murphy, Bond.
PNE: Rudd, Fisher, Storey, Davies, Earl, Ledson, Nmecha, Browne (Ginnelly 87), Johnson, Gallagher (Robinson 41), Stockley (Maguire 46). Subs (not used): Moult, Rafferty, Huntington, Crowe.
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire)
Attendance: 25,088 (2,752 PNE)