Point against Baggies continues steady progress, says Preston fan John Roper
A third successive draw for North End after a Ben Whiteman goal just before the half hour mark was cancelled out by a Matt Phillips' equaliser in added time in the first half.
Frankie McAvoy kept faith with the same side for a fourth consecutive game as North End faced, probably, their toughest test of the season at Deepdale.
The hosts countered what the visitors threw at them and took the lead with a deflected shot past Sam Johnstone in the West Bromwich Albion goal.
However, on the stroke of half-time North End defended a throw-in poorly and Phillips was at the back post to head home.
After the break, I thought the visitors just started to get the better of it but home side’s defence held firm and perhaps could have stolen the game near the end when a shot from Ryan Ledson was saved by Johnstone down at the foot of the post and both sides looked reasonably satisfied with a point each.
The game started a little scrappily to be honest and an early booking for Sepp van den Berg didn’t help our cause. Patrick Bauer then got an arm to the head from Jordan Hugill as the game struggled for any flow.
Gradually, North End got into it although I haven’t really seen us play as direct as we did in the first half for quite some time. It seemed to work, though, as Sean Maguire and Emil Riis got the centre backs turning as North End took the game to the visitors.
A Bauer header went wide after 20 minutes but six minutes later Ben Whiteman picked the ball up in a central advanced area and his shot took a big deflection and went past Johnstone to give North End the lead.
We were looking generally quite comfortable as West Brom launched a series of long throws but it was from one of these in first half added time that Phillips headed the Baggies level.
No changes for either side at the break but it was West Brom who came out with more purpose and had the better of the opening quarter of an hour in the second half. Phillips had a curling shot for the visitors as North End just found it a little more difficult to get anything worthwhile on target.
Connor Wickham came on to add a bit of bulk to the North End attack and showed one or two good touches on the ball but clearly lacks match fitness.
Callum Robinson was then introduced for the visitors to loud applause from all four sides of the ground.
Ali McCann was then brought on instead of Whiteman and I have to say the Northern Ireland international made a decent showing on his home debut.
Ledson’s late shot was then well saved and near the end Hugill had a chance to win the game for West Brom but shot tamely at Daniel Iversen and both sides had to settle for a point.
So three draws for North End in our last three outings has seen us slip down the table to seventeenth.
It goes without saying that we are paying the price for that very poor start and although the last three games have been drawn they have seen a huge improvement in performance from the boys and North End looked quite settled as a side at the moment.
As for this game, well I made Josh Earl man of the match for a really good performance at left wing back and the lad looks like he has played in that position all his life.
The forwards worked hard once again without really creating that golden chance and the defence, under the leadership of Bauer, once again looked solid against one of the top sides in the division.
The third round league cup tie against Cheltenham on Tuesday evening will give Frankie a chance to get some miles into the legs of some of the fringe players before the league campaign continues at St Andrews next Saturday.
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