Match Reports

Albion Preston North End match report

Albion claimed their fifth win of February to extend their lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a convincing 2-0 victory over play-off chasing Preston North End.

In-form Hal Robson-Kanu struck early to settle any nerves at The Hawthorns before ever-impressive Jake Livermore fired in a stunning left-foot effort as the Baggies took their unbeaten stretch to six games.

Slaven Bilić made one change to the team that emphatically beat Bristol City 3-0 on Saturday with Rekeem Harper replacing Romaine Sawyers as he began a three-game suspension.

Robson-Kanu started with the confidence of a man in the best form of his career, forcing a save from Declan Rudd after just six seconds with an ambitious 35-yard volley.

But the Welshman would not have to wait long to record his 10th goal of the season, bringing down Callum Robinson’s exquisite ball over the top before firing through the legs of Rudd to give the Baggies a sixth-minute lead.

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The visitors might have equalised against the run of play midway through the first half but David Nugent’s header bounced over from Andrew Hughes’ whipped left-wing cross.

Robinson so nearly doubled Albion’s lead on the half-hour mark but his right-foot strike from Matheus Pereira’s sublime through ball was bravely blocked by a full-stretched Rudd.

Albion continued to dominate possession but the game remained in the balance when Nugent again squandered a chance to level on 32 minutes, nodding just wide from Darnell Fisher’s ball in.   

But for the excellence of Rudd between the Preston sticks the Baggies could have had the game out of sight before the break but the 29-year-old stopper was again quick off his line to parry Robinson’s low strike from another perfectly-weighted Pereira pass.

With the game finely poised up stepped “Captain Magnifico” Jake Livermore to start and finish a fine Albion move.

The Baggies skipper pounced on a sloppy Preston pass 30 yards from his own goal to instigate arguably the best passage of play of the half. Pereira in turn found Robinson on the right whose cross to Robson-Kanu was chested down for Livermore to slam the ball inside the left upright from just inside the area.

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Albion nearly netted another stunner from an unlikely source nine minutes after the restart - Ahmed Hegazi driving a fine left-footed effort inches wide from 20 yards after the visitors failed to fully clear Pereira’s corner.

Preston’s uphill struggle was further hindered when they were reduced to 10 men with 25 minutes to play. North End right-back Fisher was given his marching orders by referee Kevin Friend for a strong challenge on Robinson.

Albion made their extra man count and remained on top for much of the game from there on in. Only Rudd could prevent a third for the Baggies, diving to his left to parry Charlie Austin’s first-time effort from Grosicki’s layoff with six minutes remaining. 

Young midfielder Harper almost marked his return to first-team action with an 89th-minute goal but his dipping effort from the edge of the ‘D’ bounced onto the bar and over.  

ALBION: Johnstone; O’Shea, Ajayi, Hegazi, Townsend; Livermore, Harper; Pereira (Phillips 72), Krovinović, Robinson (Grosicki 79); Robson-Kanu (Austin 82).

Subs: Bond; Furlong, Bartley, Barry.

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