Preston v West Brom: Wounded hosts to make a fast start

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CHAMPIONSHIP specialist James O'Rourke (@JamesOR1) shares his thoughts on Monday night's match-up between Preston and West Brom.

Preston v West Brom | Monday 2nd December 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports

With the rest of the division playing in the days prior to this, Monday night’s encounter between Preston North End and West Brom will bring the curtain down on Matchday 19 in the Championship. Going into the weekend, this was a top-five encounter, with WBA winning four on the bounce, and Preston losing their last two but remain in the play-offs.

It is back-to-back defeats for Preston, which is obviously something Alex Neil would have wanted to avoid but I certainly don’t think it is time to start pressing the panic button, or anything remotely like that at Deepdale. Losing away at Derby is no disgrace considering the Rams have now won five in succession at Pride Park, plus this was only 1-0.

Neil was without many key players in their midweek loss at Hull, with Ryan Ledson having to play in an unfamiliar left back role, plus key defenders Darnell Fisher and Ben Davies were both out of action. They had a good excuse.

Nevertheless, Neil will have his charges fired up following a 4-0 loss and he’ll hopefully have one or two players back to boost their ranks. They certainly need it given West Brom are in town, who are starting to look every inch a Premier League team in waiting. However, Preston went on a three-match winning streak not so long ago and only Manchester City has defeated them at home since Leeds beat them in April.

Slaven Bilic deserves tremendous credit for the impact he has had since his relatively surprise appointment to the Baggies job over the summer. Clever recruits such as Semi Ajayi, Matheus Pereira, Romaine Sawyers, Grady Diangana and Charlie Austin are all more than playing their part, whilst introducing young Nathan Ferguson to the first-team fold has proven a masterstroke, too.

As mentioned, West Brom have won their last four and have demonstrated different sides to their game within this run. The final scores of 4-1, 2-1, 1-0 and 2-0 alone will reflect that. They’ve been especially effective away this season by winning 6/9, and 7/9 away have finished Under 2.5 Goals, suggesting a clear change in approach to if playing at The Hawthorns, as their home encounters are averaging over four goals.

I’m slightly reserved about backing WBA in this one, mainly because Preston are a wounded animal and will look to bounce back. They’re never easily defeated at home, although team news will be key for them as playing the same defence as against Hull in midweek would present a big problem against arguably the best team in the division.

There are two plays I do like however, the first of which is Preston to Score First, which is priced at 123/100 (Marathon). With West Brom being favourites for this game, all the value is really on the side of Preston, and they’re normally quick out of the blocks.

As mentioned, losing their last two will have hurt, and they’ve scored the first goal in 12/18 this season, including 7/9 at home. With West Brom’s away games normally low-scoring, although that could easily change on Monday, I do wonder if they’ll initially sit back and look to weather the Preston storm, which might be a risk.

My second and final play is a bit of a speculative punt, as this kind of selection so often is, and that is for there to be a Penalty in Match at 10/3 (William Hill). The reason being, quite simply, is that going into the weekend on other Championship team has earned more penalties than Preston’s eight.

West Brom have four of their own, but if Preston are again without some key defenders than they could easily make a poorly timed challenge in their own box at some stage. No big stakes advised but the numbers suggest this has a chance.

Best Bets

Preston v West Brom – Preston to Score First (123/100 Marathon)

Preston v West Brom – Penalty in Match (10/3 William Hill)

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