Preston 0 West Brom 4 - Report
Albion produced their best away performance under Carlos Corberan and in some time to romp to a 4-0 win at high-flying Preston and emphatically end a 100 per cent home Deepdale record.
Corberan's side delivered a statement win in the Lancashire rain with goals from Darnell Furlong, Alex Mowatt, Matt Phillips and Kyle Bartley earning a first away win of the season.
Much-changed Albion answered their away critics in some style and made Ryan Lowe's hosts, previously the Championship's only unbeaten side, look hapless for large parts. Preston were dreadful but the Baggies made them struggle, by and large.
The head coach and his players got their game plan bang on at Deepdale and for the 2,011 travelling fans this was the best away day experience for years, arguably going back to the promotion push prior to lockdown.
It was the perfect way to return to winning ways following three straight draws and has confidence flowing through Corberan's side for a busy three-game week.
John Swift starred and played a role in three of four goals but it was a real team effort from the Baggies. No player slipped below an eight out of 10 on a day to remember full of stunning goals and one-touch play of a side brimming full of confidence. The full-time celebrations between players and fans were something.
Boss Corberan talked up the importance of a squad game in his press conference on Friday morning so it was no surprise when, for the second game running, the Spaniard made five changes to his starting line-up.
There was no defender Semi Ajayi, who failed to recover from an ankle injury from late on last weekend. Brandon Thomas-Asante, the sole recognised senior available striker, was dropped to the bench amid a busy period. He remained an unused substitute.
Also coming out of the side were Conor Townsend, Jayson Molumby and Jeremy Sarmiento. Albion reverted to more unfamiliar back four, with winger Jed Wallace - back in alongside John Swift, Okay Yokuslu, Cedric Kipre and Furlong - leading the makeshift frontline.
The visitors immediately looked fresh all over the park. Wallace, leading the line, was sharp in leading the press and the line for his side with some intelligent runs, aided by Swift's support and some penetrating, purposeful play from Grady Diangana, who picked up where he left off from last weekend.
And the Baggies' slightly surprising system may have caught the in-form hosts off guard, as Albion marched ahead on four minutes.
It was a lovely goal, too. Erik Pieters' smart forward ball was excellent controlled by Matt Phillips, on the left this week. Phillips gave a give-and-go with Swift, the latter return with a neat flick, before Phillips squared the ball across the D outside Preston's box.
It was perfectly into the path of Furlong. The right-back charged on to the ball and sent a rocket into the far bottom corner beyond Freddie Woodman. The keeper could not get near it, it was a sumptuous strike from the right-back for his first goal since January.
Preston tried to respond immediately but Corberan's side were smart in their defending and game management. The home fans got annoyed with Albion dark arts from minute 15, but they should've been more annoyed by their side's sluggish play.
A first and rare bit of Albion sloppiness went unpunished as PNE's Liam Millar shot wastefully over from outside the box but that aside Albion were on song in everything they did and the 2,000 visiting fans sounded their appreciation.
By half hour the Baggies were two ahead and through another fine goal.
Mowatt's smart slid finish into the bottom corner was his first goal since April 2022. It was a surprise to see the midfielder in that position but highlighted Albion's creative streak.
It was a back-to-front goal of the very best kind and all congratulations went to goalkeeper Palmer.
His volleyed kick from inside Albion's box was bang on the money for Diangana down the right.
The winger burst forward and passed square for Swift. He looked for Mowatt on the overlap left into the box. The pass was a little off, but defender Jordan Storey made a real hash of a clearance as the ball bounced of Mowatt and his composed finish into the corner was measured.
Albion's confidence was sky-high. One-touch passes and movement was coming off almost by the minute.
Furlong and Okay Yokuslu - the latter heading over - might have done more damage before the break but Albion were very satisfied. Palmer made his only save of note on the stroke of half-time, a decent stop from a central strike from Duane Holmes – just about Preston's only warning note of the afternoon.
Preston's Lowe introduced Robbie Brady at the break and Albion's challenge was to maintain the performance level.
Though as good as the Baggies were, Preston were all at sea and looked nothing like a side who'd flew near the summit early this season.
They slumped even worse after the restart as Albion continued to barrage the hapless hosts. Diangana had the ball in the net from a volley from Swift's excellent lob into the box but the Baggies were denied by an offside flag. Phillips curled a beauty inches wide from the left corner of the box moments later.
The joyous away end were dancing in the rain and had seen more than enough - 'ole-ing' their sides passes as Albion pinged it around.
And the cherry was applied after the hour as Phillips struck his second goal of the season. Swift was involved again with a fine swept pass to the left and the winger edged into the box before his strike deflected in beyond Woodman.
Just as noticeable in the final stages was Albion's desire to preserve the clean sheet. Pieters and Mowatt among others, including sub Nathaniel Chalobah, flung themselves into blocks and challenges to deny Preston, much to Corberan's delight.
There was still time for more attacking joy. Bartley made it four minutes from time typifying the afternoon as he showed more desire to attack Wallace's free-kick and send into the corner. Corberan even let loose to respond to the away end's request of a wave.
Albion fans behind the goal roared their side home after a day to savour in Lancashire.
Preston (3-4-2-1): Woodman; Storey, Hughes, Lindsay; Potts, McCann, Ledson (Whiteman, 64), Millar (Brady, 45); Browne (c), Holmes (Frokjaer, 64); Osmajic (Keane, 64).
Subs not used: Cornell, Cunningham, Stewart, Woodburn, Whatmough.
Albion (3-4-3): Palmer; Kipre, Bartley, Pieters (Townsend, 78); Furlong, Mowatt, Yokuslu (Molumby, 66), Phillips (Pipa, 85); Diangana (Sarmiento, 66), Wallace, Swift (Chalobah, 78).
Subs not used: Griffiths, Taylor, Fellows, Thomas-Asante.
Attendance: 16,658 (2,011 Albion fans)
Referee: Josh Smith