West Bromwich Albion 4-1 Preston North End Player Ratings: Holgate delivers

 

Dwight Gayle bags a hat-trick – https://www.wba.co.uk/

Dwight Gayle scored a hat-trick on Saturday afternoon as West Bromwich Albion’s final third quality saw them defeat Preston North End at the Hawthorns, thus stepping closer too booking their place in the play-offs and all but ruling out the visitors in the process. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

West Bromwich Albion

Sam Johnstone – the goalkeeper did not have any saves to make until second half injury-time as out of the three openings Preston had, two were forwards narrowly missing contact and one was Browne having a shot blocked. Distribution was poor. 5

Kyle Bartley – the centre-back has generally played second-fiddle to Dawson and Hegazi recently, but he did a solid job after coming into Albion’s back three. Won six aerial duels and four interceptions and in terms of the basics, he fared as well as any Championship centre-back could expect to; however, a pass completion ratio of just 59% shows that he gave possession away very cheaply. 7
Craig Dawson – the long-serving defender was perhaps the most reliable in possession of the trio, completing 81% of his passes. That will be important for Albion against the stronger teams they will face in the Play-Offs, when they will need to find ways of holding onto the ball long enough to generate a higher volume of possession in advanced areas. 8
Ahmed Hegazi – the Egyptian was commanding from the back and won six headed duels, as if to highlight the aerial prowess West Brom missed at Bristol City in midweek; although although the quality of his distribution remains limited. Went off in the second half with an injury and Albion need his aerial prowess. 7

Mason Holgate – the Everton loanee appeared to relish the extra freedom a wing-back role handed him. Holgate is clearly a real athlete and showed a willingness to drive forward and link up with his teammates, making him Albion’s only real outlet in the second half, when he delivered for numerous opportunities. 8
Stefan Johansen – the Fulham loanee has struggled for form and fitness since joining in January but this was arguably his best performance in a Baggies shirt. He looked lively early on, linking play well in the final third, even if his through ball for Rodriguez’s goal was slightly fortuitous. 8
Jake Livermore – the midfielder gets a lot of criticism from Albion fans and at times that is deserved, because he possesses neither pace nor technical ability to any great extent. Livermore though played some decent passes out to wide areas, he did some reasonable covering work at times and showed a willingness to commit himself to the cause, even if he earnt himself a yellow card for a poor challenge on one second half occasion. 6
Chris Brunt – the Northern Irishman did not necessarily dictate general play. Instead, his main selling point was the quality of his deliveries; he played a wonderful diagonal ball from the centre-circle for Gayle’s opener and found consistent accuracy on his set pieces. 8
Kieran Gibbs – the former Arsenal stalwart only just returned from injury and is still taking time to get back to his best. Possibly more comfortable in a back four, when the remit is geared further towards defensive work. 6

Jay Rodriguez – the forward divides opinion at the Hawthorns and clearly, his ability with his back to goal and in the air can limit West Brom at times. However, some of his link-up play when he did have the ball at his feet was better than has been recognized this term. Deserved his goal and could have had a brace, but for a slightly wasteful second half finish from close-range, following Holgate’s pull-back. 7
Dwight Gayle – a classic example of Gayle at his best. It was not as if the Newcastle loanee was a constant influence on general play, but that has never been his natural game, which is why it seemed very surprising that Darren Moore fielded him out wide. In this central role under Jimmy Shan, he is able to dart beyond his opponent to find half a yard of space in the penalty area and finish with ruthless precision, which is exactly what he did for all three beautifully-taken goals. Appealing 80/1 quotes on Gayle going onto become the Championship’s top goalscorer with this site. 9

Tosin Adarabioyo (on 52) – the Manchester City loanee endured one nervy moment, when his casual body posture on the ball led to a misplaced pass, but in fairness he recovered well. Adarabioyo would arguably look at home in the first team of his parent club in most games, but the intensity of Championship football means he will come under more pressure than he did at youth level. 6
Conor Townsend (on 61) – the left-back had one or two difficult moments up against Nmecha in the final half-hour and did not have as many opportunities as he might have liked to show what he can do going forward. Gibbs is likely to remain first choice when fit. 5
Matt Phillips (on 70) – to be four goals ahead and able to bring on one of the most threatening direct runners in the Championship for the last 20 minutes was a nice scenario for West Brom. Phillips is often thought of externally as a winger but here, he showed he can ask plenty of counter-attacking questions in a free, central role, especially with so much space in behind. 7

Preston North End

Declan Rudd – despite conceding four goals, the Preston stopper did not have a particularly bad game, because he was generally beaten by strong finishes rather than overt errors. Made one or two good second half stops to keep the score down, too. 6

Darnell Fisher – in the first half, Fisher was arguably the only player trying to help the team make forward tracks without going long; he was also the only one to attempt service to Stockley from close enough proximity to find some degree of accuracy. 6
Jordan Storey – the centre-back did not appear to do too much wrong, even in the first half when Preston conceded three goals; the issue in that period had more to do with midfield vulnerabilities. Won four aerial duels. 6
Ben Davies – perhaps slightly guilty of letting Gayle get beyond him for the opener but as with Storey, he did not do a great deal wrong in open play. Won three aerial duels and made two interceptions. 5
Josh Earl – the left-back was partially at fault for poor positioning in the build-up to Albion’s opener, then moments later gave the ball away in his own half for their second. Earl was only recently though playing in non-league for Lancaster so playing against top Championship attacks is another learning curve which will help his progression in the long run. 4

Ryan Ledson – the former Oxford midfielder’s display is one of the few genuine positives Preston can take out of their game; if Ben Pearson goes in the summer, they need a Rottweiler to fill his boots and Ledson looks just the job. In the first half, he was the only midfielder tracking back in transition to protect the defence, then after the interval, he played a part in North End operating slightly further up the pitch. Has the ability to make contributions at both ends of the pitch in quick succession and looks full of energy. 7
Daniel Johnson – ideally, the long-serving North Ender would spend some time out of the team because, on a three-game losing run, it is important to go back to the simplicity of having 11 players doing the basics without the ball. Johnson appears to be very languid and while that has been his strength earlier in his Preston career, his mentality is currently leaving them exposed without the ball and that is a real problem. 4
Paul Gallagher – the former Leicester man has kept his place in Preston’s squad due to his set piece and technical quality; somebody who can offer a touch of poise and class in an otherwise frenetic outfit. The problem with that now is the modern game demands players who can do both sides of a performance – even if to varying extents – and Gallagher appeared to have a serious fitness issue. Given that he is deep into his second decade in the professional game, one wonders whether it might be too late for him to recover peak fitness and contribute sufficiently without the ball. 4

Lukas Nmecha – in terms of the starting XI, Nmecha was Preston’s brightest attacking spark. He made some direct runs in from the right channel in the first half, then came alive for a 15-minute spell in the second, when he caused problems for Gibbs and then Townsend, setting up the best opening of the second period for Robinson in that spell. Clearly, Nmecha has immense potential and could be one to watch if back in the Championship in 2019-20. 7
Jayden Stockley – it seems slightly unfair that Stockley was taken off at half-time, without having had the quality of service that he needs to thrive. Every direct ball played into him during that first period initiated from Preston’s half, which meant the speed, accuracy and quality of those deliveries were very limited and thus opposing centre-backs had time to read the situation. Ironically, the midfield got further up the pitch after Stockley went off, which was the very point at which he could have done some damage. 5
Alan Browne – the long-serving midfielder was a willing presser as we have come to expect. However, the line-up dictated he started out on the left but, without the dribbling ability of wide counter-part Nmecha, he struggled to get into the game in a positive, creative sense. We always associated with Browne that ability to pick up the ball in a central area and drive at the opposing defence yet, aside from one moment of skill leading to a shot he saw blocked early in the second period, this was not his day. 4

Callum Robinson (on 42) – the speedy forward’s energetic pressing and running in behind was central to an improved start to the second half from Preston, so he deserved his consolation goal in injury-time. 7
Sean Maguire (on 45) – the Irishman played wide left while on loan at Accrington earlier in his career, so far that reason it is unsurprising that he offers more mobility and selfless movement into wide areas than Stockley, which helped up to a point. On the downside though, Maguire did not offer North End a physical presence to target in the opposition box, which they needed in the last half hour. 5
Josh Ginnelly (on 87) – proved an energetic, direct runner at Walsall and Lincoln and certainly looked keen to show what he can do at Championship level in his cameo appearance. 6