Preston v West Brom: Baggies targeting a famous five run
Albion can complete the rare feat of five Championship wins on the spin tonight – with boss Slaven Bilic plotting ways to add to hosts Preston’s recent woes.
Bilic’s side need all three points from Deepdale to leapfrog Leeds and return to the top of the second tier standings, writes Lewis Cox.
If the visitors inflict a first home defeat of the season on Preston it will be the first time they have clocked up five wins on the spin since March 2010, which put Roberto Di Matteo’s side on the verge of promotion from the Championship.
Alex Neil’s side will be glad to be back at their Lancashire base after back-to-back defeats on the road has slowed down their eye-catching start to the season.
The Lilywhites’ form in front of their home supporters has been nothing short of sensational this term. They, alongside Albion, boast the only unbeaten home records in the division.
Though Albion’s record on the road is only bettered by Leeds on goal difference, with the Baggies playing once fewer.
The in-form Baggies have scored late goals in their last two games, victories over Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City, and Bilic admits it is a ploy to expose drained opposition towards the end of clashes.
“It’s everything,” said Albion boss Bilic. “Whoever we are facing, when we are analysing them we get information, like how many times they score from the 75th minute to the 90th minute.
“That’s the time when goals are very likely to happen because at least one of the teams is not happy with the result so they take more risks and they open.
“They score, or the opponent scores, but it does show our team spirit, our character, not only the quality – but the determination to score those goals.
Watch Slaven Bilic discuss the game here:
“They never give up, they have the attitude and the quality.”
Charlie Austin’s penalty two minutes from time was the difference against Wednesday nine days ago before two goals in the final 10 minutes from Hal Robson-Kanu and Austin gave welcome breathing space against the Robins in midweek.
One of Dwight Gayle’s 24 goals for the Baggies last season came in the closing stages of the dramatic 3-2 Deepdale success.
Bilic was slightly critical of his side’s failure to see themselves home and hosed with a killer third goal at home to Bristol City last week, only eventually seeing the Robins off after Famara Diedhiou had given the visitors hope.
“When the opponent takes a bit more risk, then we have the quality who can use that situation when the opponent is exposed and punish them,” the Croatian continued. “We did it on Wednesday – although especially in the second half, before they scored, we had three or four or five situations where the minimum you expect is that it finishes with an open chance for us.
“As I remember it was the same with Charlton, when we were winning 1-0, and we had four massive chances in the second half before they equalised.
“Wednesday’s game, that’s the only part of the game we’re not happy, that we have to score a third one.”
Bilic admitted that Neil’s hosts have the potential to ‘eat you up’ if they are given the opportunity on home soil.
The Baggies chief also feels the relentless and demanding fixture list is further proof of the challenges posed in the Championship.
“They’re very strong at home,” the boss said of Preston, who finished 14th last season, losing home and away to Albion.
“Seven wins and two draws at home, scored a lot of goals, a part from the last couple of games.
“It’ll be a very tough away game, they want to make it like that probably.
“But we’re facing tough opponents every week. Look at our last few opponents, Bristol, Sheffield, Hull away, Stoke away. It can’t be tougher than that, it’s that level.
“They’re (Preston) very strong, give them a little bit and they’re going to eat you up.”