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West Brom 4 Preston North End 1 - Player ratings

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Albion cruised past Preston North End in the Alex Neil derby on Saturday to bounce back from two defeats in a row. Here, we rate the players.

Albion celebrate Gayle's hat-trick with him. (AMA)

Sam Johnstone

Rarely troubled in goal, and there was little he could have done about Preston's injury-time consolation. But his distribution was impressive, and he set Albion off on countless counter-attacks with both hands and feet. One 70-yard ping to Johansen stands out. 7/10

Craig Dawson

Dominant in the air, like all of the back three, and tough in the tackle. This was a reassuringly confident performance after a pretty dreadful one at Ashton Gate. Even got forward at times, under-lapping his wing-back to cause Preston a few problems. 7/10

Kyle Bartley

Looked far more comfortable as the central one of the defensive three, rather than being farmed out left. Very little got past him, and when he had the ball, he kept it simple. A game that suggests his season may have gone better had Albion played to his strengths. 7/10

Ahmed Hegazi

Forced off in the second half for what appeared to be a precaution, but before that didn’t stop him winning a joint match-high number of headers alongside Bartley. Like the others alongside him, looked comfortable with this approach. 6/10

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Mason Holgate

His attacking runs up the right flank have always been dangerous, but they’ve been curbed a bit in recent weeks. However, playing wing-back gave him license to get forward and it was his persistence which led to Gayle’s second goal in the first half. 7/10

Jake Livermore

Although he was overshadowed by Johansen, he broke up play well and used the ball sensibly when he did have it. There was a balance to the central midfield that has been lacking too often this season and Livermore played his part in that. 6/10

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Chris Brunt

Alex Neil said he told his players ‘seven times’ that Brunt would be looking for that ball in behind to Gayle, which makes the pass even more outrageous, because Preston knew it was coming. It’s the sort of pass you go home and excitedly tell your family about. For 15 minutes. 8/10

Stefan Johansen

If Gayle hadn’t scored a hat-trick, the Norwegian would be man of the match. His best performance in an Albion shirt to date, this was the Johansen Albion thought they’d signed. Supported the front two, and covered every blade of grass. He’s up and running now. 8/10

Kieran Gibbs

Conor Townsend did an admitable job while deputising, but Albion look more composed down that left flank when Gibbs is playing. Linked well with Johansen and Gayle, but was taken off after an hour with the score 3-0 as a precaution because of his hip problem. 7/10

Jay Rodriguez

Scored one, and had a hand in another, but it was his link-up play with Gayle which was most encouraging as we near the play-offs. Keeping those two up front together is a must for the rest of the season. There’s goals in them there boots. 8/10

Dwight Gayle

Player of the season. Not only does he score goals, win penalties, set up his team-mates, and chase down every lost cause, but he’s even got a devilish long throw! This was his second hat-trick of the season, and with him in the team, Albion have a chance of beating anyone. 10/10

Substitutes

Tosin Adarabioyo (Hegazi 52)

Helped see the game out but will be disappointed to have conceded. 6/10

Conor Townsend (Gibbs 60)

A satisfactory understudy to Gibbs. 6/10

Matt Phillips (Livermore 70)

Great to see him back on the pitch, running at defenders. 6/10

Unused: Bond, Harper, Murphy, Robson-Kanu

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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