Preston 1-0 West Brom: Pressure piles on Bruce after another loss
Preston earned their first home win of the season with a 1-0 victory over West Brom, sending the Baggies tumbling into the Championship relegation zone to pile further pressure on under-fire manager Steve Bruce.
Striker Emil Riis was the matchwinner, the Dane’s goal – only Preston’s fourth of the campaign – earning Ryan Lowe’s team a first victory in seven league matches at Deepdale this term.
For West Brom, the misery continues. The Baggies, with one win from 12 matches, sink to 22nd and two points from safety.
Bruce had highlighted the importance of curing a ruinous habit of conceding in the opening 15 minutes of games.
But, despite making six changes from the weekend defeat by Swansea, Bruce watched the visitors shoot themselves in the foot once more.
Preston had already tested Alex Palmer – the goalkeeper superbly beating away Sean Maguire’s close-range header – when Riis broke through.
Ali McCann did the leg work, surging clear of Jayson Molumby in midfield to feed Alvaro Fernandez on the left.
Fernandez, the polished young Spaniard on loan from Manchester United, sent in a menacing low cross and it was Riis on the move, reducing West Brom’s statuesque backline to spectators, to convert.
Staring at a familiar scenario – that is seven times in 12 league matches West Brom have fallen behind in the opening quarter of an hour – the away team tried to reply through Grady Diangana, who jinked into the box but shot past the far post.
Diangana was soon off target again after a smart one-two with Conor Townsend.
But it was the 43rd minute before Freddie Woodman was tested, the Preston goalkeeper taking off to his left to turn behind a Jed Wallace strike.
Preston had created a succession of openings.
Fernandez fed livewire Maguire for a 25-yard attempt that skipped wide from distance and Dara O’Shea blocked Robbie Brady’s goalbound effort.
McCann came closer still with a strike that rattled Palmer’s right post following a breathless Preston counter.
West Brom progressively pinned back the hosts following the restart, albeit miserly Preston were content to sit on their advantage.
There was a penalty shout from Diangana following a tumble in the box that fell on deaf ears.
And West Brom’s renewed purpose resulted in the previously under-employed Woodman definitively earning his wage.
A save from substitute Tom Rogic after 66 minutes was straightforward, the substitute shooting tamely from six yards after the persevering Diangana’s cut-back.
Woodman’s reflex stop with his leg after Karlan Grant was threaded in on goal two minutes earlier, however, was outstanding.
Preston comfortably withstood West Brom’s unconvincing late rally for a ninth clean sheet this season to climb four places to 11th.
But for Bruce, who has seen five of the 12 Championship bosses he’s encountered since July lose their jobs, this was another wretched night.