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Preston North End’s opponents West Bromwich Albion eye up swift Premier League return

Preston North End manager Alex Neil is not surprised that West Bromwich Albion are the Championship’s top scorers and pushing for a swift return to the top flight.

The Baggies have scored 22 goals in nine league matches ahead of this weekend’s visit to Deepdale.

WBA strikers Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle celebrate in the victory against Bristol City

WBA strikers Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle celebrate in the victory against Bristol City

It is three more than league leaders Leeds have managed, with Brentford’s 16 goals the division’s third-best record.

With PNE having shipped 18 league goals – the most in the section – Albion’s exploits in front of goal are not the most comforting of statistics.

Neil said: “From what I have looked at, West Bromwich have as much quality if not more than anyone else in the league.

“It is no surprise that they are top goalscorers which is obviously alarming for us.

“They have real quality players all over the pitch and especially at the top end.

“I saw their game against Bristol City – one in which I thought Bristol City played really well in – but West Bromwich scored four goals.

“They did the same against Norwich, it was Norwich who controlled the ball for large spells but when it broke down and West Bromwich nicked it, they showed their quality.

“You could say they like an open game which is not what we want at the moment.

“Their approach is ‘We will score more goals than you’.

“That is a good option to take with the quality that have in their team. We’ll have to come up with a way of having an attacking threat but make sure we are much more solid than we have been of late.”

Jay Rodriguez is Albion’s leading scorer with six goals, while Dwight Gayle – on loan from Newcastle – has five.

Wing-back Matt Phillips has contributed four goals and Leicester loanee Harvey Barnes has three to his name.

The results this season have included a 7-1 win over QPR, 4-2 against Bristol City and 4-3 away to Norwich.

In midweek they went out of the League Cup, beaten 3-0 at home by Crystal Palace.

At the Hawthorns helm is Darren Moore who got the head coach role on a full-time basis in the summer.

Assistant head coach is Graeme Jones who until the summer was No.2 to Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

Jones and Neil were for a time team-mates at Hamilton Academical.

Said Neil: “Darren Moore is someone who has coached for a number of years. Darren is well versed in setting teams up and getting them going.

“He’s been very astute in getting Graeme Jones, who I played with in Scotland, to be part of the coaching team.

“Graeme has experience from the Belgium set-up and being with Roberto Martinez for the last 10 years – I think he will be a big part of helping them achieve what they do.

“If you look at West Bromwich, they were a Premier League club for a number of years and have still got the majority of their Premier League players.

“They turned down £20m for one of their centre-backs.

“The expectation is for them to be challenging to go straight back up.”