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14:44 3th October 2009

ALBION'S first clean-sheet in four games earned them the draw they needed to prevent Preston overtaking them in the table and secure second spot heading into the international break.

The Baggies had the better of this top-of-the-table clash, showing a big improvement from Tuesday's dismal defeat at Barnsley.

In a game of few clear-cut chances, it was Roberto Di Matteo's men who came closest to breaking the deadlock when the dangerous Graham Dorrans hit the post in the 14th minute.

And the Scottish midfielder forced the only two real saves of the game from Andy Lonergan in the final 13 minutes as the Baggies' 50-year search for a win on North End soil continued.

The Lilywhites' only real threat came from a couple of set-pieces and the point ended the Baggies' run of three successive defeats in all competitions.

Di Matteo rang three changes. Abdoulaye Meite was handed his first league start in six months, Marek Cech returned from injury and Gonzalo Jara was recalled in a five-man midfield.

The men to make way were Shelton Martis, Robert Koren and Chris Wood, who all dropped to the bench.

Albion threatened first when Chris Brunt took a quick throw-in to Dorrans and the Scot turned sharply before finding Cech out wide on the left.

The Slovakia international tried to return the favour with a dangerous ball into the box - but Youl Mawene just managed to cut it out.

Albion fell asleep in the 13th minute as they allowed Chris Sedgwick to take a quick corner to Ross Wallace.

The Lilywhites winger nut-megged Dorrans on the edge of the area before scuffing a low shot wide of the near post.

A minute later, Albion went agonisingly close to snatching the lead thanks to a swift break.

Jara found Dorrans on the edge of the Preston penalty area and he twisted and turned Mawene before drilling in a low left-foot shot which Lonergan somehow parried onto his near post.

Roman Bednar was first to the rebound but an awkward bounce made it hard for the Czech striker to keep his effort on target from ten yards.

Albion continued to press and, in the 18th minute, Dorrans' clever back-heel teed up Brunt, but the Northern Ireland winger saw his 20-yard goalbound strike blocked by Eddie Nolan.

Cech picked out the marauding Gianni Zuiverloon in the 29th minute and he was unfortunate to see his 15-yard strike deflect just wide of the right-hand post off Nolan's boot.

Albion then threatened from long range and ex-Baggie Chaplow did well to block Jara's effort.

A minute later, Di Matteo's men finally found some room down the left wing but Brunt just could not stretch high enough to keep his header on target from Joe Mattock's centre.

Albion had controlled long spells of the first 45 and a free-flowing counter-attack carved Preston open three minutes before the break.

Jara exchanged passes with Youssouf Mulumbu before teeing up Dorrans, who sliced his shot wide of the near post from 12 yards when he should at least have hit the target.

However, the Baggies almost found themselves a goal down at half-time as Billy Jones headed inches wide from Wallace's free-kick.

Albion allowed North End to break on them in the 49th minute and Neil Mellor let fly with a 25-yard strike which caused Scott Carson little trouble.

Dorrans and Bednar's combined tenacity forced a mistake in the Preston backline three minutes later which resulted in the latter being brought down in the box by Neil Collins.

But referee Anthony Bates waved away vociferous Albion penalty appeals.
Brunt limped off in the 59th minute with an injury and, after a brief spell with ten men, Koren replaced him.

Preston enjoyed a little spell of pressure and Mattock had to be alert to nod Jones' header from Wallace's left-wing corner over the bar.

North End went even closer in the 67th minute when Mellor's glancing near-post header from Wallace's right-wing free-kick flew just past the far stick.

But Dorrans was proving the star of the show and he went agonisingly close again on 77. Bednar pulled the ball back to the former Livingston ace who beat Nolan before seeing Lonergan push his powerful drive over the bar.

Ex-Albion man Darren Carter finally produced another shot on target for the hosts in the 86th minute but Carson easily dealt with his 20-yard strike.

Albion kept pressing for a breakthrough right to the end - and almost got one.

In the third minute of stoppage time, Mattock centred to Dorrans whose downward header was superbly saved by Lonergan right on the goalline.

PRESTON (4-4-2): Lonergan; Jones, Mawene, Collins, Nolan; Sedgwick, Chaplow (Shumulikoski 71), Carter, Wallace; Brown (Parkin 65), Mellor. Subs not used: Henderson (gk), Hart, Chilvers, Elliott.
ALBION (4-4-1-1): Carson; Zuiverloon, Meite, Olsson, Mattock; Brunt (Koren 60), Mulumbu (Martis 90+4), Jara, Cech (Reid 79); Dorrans; Bednar. Subs not used: Kiely (gk), Barnett, Wood, Cox.
REFEREE: A Bates (Staffordshire).
ALBION STARMAN: Graham Dorrans.

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.