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Daryl Dike injury delivers a huge blow to West Brom ahead of Preston test

Daryl Dike’s injury is more than just a blow for Albion.

Karlan Grant celebrates with Callum Robinson (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).
Karlan Grant celebrates with Callum Robinson (Photo by Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images).

Yes, he is a goalscorer. Yes, he is the centre-forward that perfectly suits Valerien Ismael’s style of play.

But there was hope Dike could be even more.

Albion are currently lacking a talisman. A cult hero, if you like.

And it felt like Dike could be that man. He was always going to be popular if he replicated the goalscoring form he showed at Barnsley.

His powerful, direct, style of play was also sure to catch the eye.

But it is his upbeat and bubbly personality that gave you the feeling he could be the player that really bonds this team with the crowd.

Hopefully, he still will. There will still be a lot of football to play when he has recovered from the hamstring strain that is set to rule him out for eight weeks.

But in the meantime, Albion need to find a way to stay in the hunt for automatic promotion without him.

Dike’s arrival lifted the mood – as did Saturday’s win over Peterborough. But having failed to win in four before the visit of Darren Ferguson’s side – Albion now need to go on a run to maintain the pressure on Fulham, Bournemouth and Blackburn.

While the Dike news has overshadowed things, Ismael will welcome back two key players tonight.

Both Sam Johnstone and Alex Mowatt return in what is a major boost. In Johnstone’s absence, David Button stepped in and performed well. But Johnstone is the division’s outstanding goalkeeper and will return tonight.

Mowatt, though, really has been badly missed over the course of the last three games.

The truth is – with Robert Snodgrass out of favour – he is Albion’s most creative central midfielder by a long stretch.

Without him, the team just isn’t balanced.

And his return will be a major boost against a North End side who are likely to come to The Hawthorns and look to frustrate.

It is hard to know exactly what approach Ryan Lowe will take.

The new boss has vowed to play attacking football ever since he he replaced the sacked Frankie McAvoy last month.

But virtually every side has come to The Hawthorns this season and put 11 men behind the ball.

And Ismael admits he is unsure how Lowe will approach the game.

“We recognise with the new manager they try to have possession in the game,” the Frenchman said.

“They have a good structure. They are organised.

“But you never know, against West Brom teams change all the time their formation and the way they play. We need to be ready and to adapt.

“We have two situations that can be helpful for us. We can score an early goal which opens everything up, the opponent has to take more risks so you can have a great game.

“Or if we are not able to score early we have to stay calm because we know we can score at any time.

“I think it will be one of the two scenarios, we will work hard to start the game strongly.”

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