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North End held at home by Albion
Published : 03 Oct 2009 15:04:45
Roberto Di Matteo - appointed as Baggies manager in the summer after Preston boss Alan Irvine turned down the post - had seen his side lose their previous two matches in miserable fashion. A 1-0 home defeat against Crystal Palace was followed by a 3-1 horror show at Barnsley in midweek, but his men at least ended their losing streak and this result keeps them two points above Preston. Yet there were precious few positives to draw from a drab encounter which brutally illustrated the gulf between the Championship and Premier League. Too much of what both sides did lacked genuine quality and a repeat of Albion's thumping 5-0 win at Middlesbrough last month never looked likely. The visitors were generally more accomplished in possession, with Graham Dorrans comfortably the game's most dangerous player, but Roman Bednar rarely threatened in his role as a lone striker. Albion right-back Gianni Zuiverloon offered a notable attacking threat and in the seventh minute he flighted in a wicked cross to the far post which Preston defender Billy Jones diverted out for a corner. Yet North End soon realised the possibilities on offer when they attacked themselves and a piece of magic from Ross Wallace conjured a clear opening in the 13th minute. The former Sunderland winger collected possession from a short corner, nutmegged a defender and dragged a right-foot shot wide of Scott Carson's near post. Moments later, Albion fashioned the clearest opening of the first half as Preston were saved by a combination of goalkeeper Andy Lonergan, the woodwork and Bednar's wastefulness. Dorrans ran at Preston defender Youl Mawene at pace, before unleashing a fierce left-foot drive from around 16 yards. Lonergan did well to parry the ball on to a post and the rebound fell to Bednar 10 yards from goal but his snapshot was high and wide of the target. Albion continued to look more threatening and in the 41st minute Dorrans had a clear shooting opportunity 14 yards from goal which he drilled wide. Preston appeared fortunate to escape a penalty claim by Albion in the 52nd minute when defender Neill Collins appeared to haul down Bednar as he raced onto a loose ball. In the 67th minute, substitute Jon Parkin narrowly failed to divert Wallace's free-kick into the net but clear-cut openings remained scarce. Dorrans showed delightful skill to cross invitingly in the 74th minute but Preston cleared the danger for a corner. Lonergan produced a smart save to repel Dorrans' fierce right-foot drive in the 77th minute and came up with an even better stop to deny the same player from a header deep into injury-time.