West Bromwich Albion were the visitors to a Deepdale on Saturday and came away with a point after a 1-1 draw.
They brought five former PNE players with them, but luckily none of them came back to haunt the club.
Instead it was the officials who did their best to ruin the game.
Referee and linesmen not up to scratch
The referee set the tone for the game with a very early booking for Sepp van den Berg for an innocuous challenge. Not long after that Jordan Hugill caught Patrick Bauer with a flailing elbow which led to him having significant treatment on a bloody nose. Hugill escaped without a booking though.
From then on the game was on a knife edge and had a tense feel about it. All the referee’s decisions were starting to be questioned but in particular West Brom choosing to take their free kicks and throw ins from wherever they wanted was irritating the PNE fans. In the end it led to the goal when Darnell Furlong move a good 10 yards up the pitch to take a throw in.
The only positive to come out of this was when the Invincibles Stand decided to steal his towel so he couldn’t dry the ball before his throws! Overall the referee was slow to react to many decisions even when his linesman was vigorously waving his flag.
Earl undroppable at the moment
Josh Earl has had a mixed time since bursting into the team in the 2017/18 season. He benefited from an injury to Greg Cunningham that year, but now even with the return of Greg, Earl has rightly nailed down the left-wing back role.
Earl dealt well with Matt Phillips and Darnell Furlong on his side of the pitch. West Brom proved to be a much more physical team then you would have imagined but Earl held his own. He’s still only 22 but this season he has shown he has matured and can offer the team plenty both at the back and going forward.
Watching him and Sepp van den Berg in the wing back roles is fascinating to see how they continue to develop and the effort they put in each week.
Bauer is a rock at the back
It’s no coincidence that PNE’s current unbeaten run has coincided with Patrick Bauer’s return to the side. He was a huge loss last season with his injury but has slotted into the back three this campaign with ease. With a young but improving Jordan Storey beside him, and an impressive of late Andrew Hughes, the trio kept a talented West Brom team at bay.
They had a lot to deal with as West Brom launched balls into the box on a regular basis. Hugill is always going to be hard to deal with and The Baggies were quick on the counter as well. The defence dealt with them admirably aside from the soft goal conceded.
Despite the knock taken from Hugill, Bauer battled on and was solid in all aerial encounters from then on.
A glimpse of what’s to come from McCann and Wickham
Frankie McAvoy made early substitutions for a change on Saturday. New signings Ali McCann and Connor Wickham replaced Ben Whiteman and Sean Maguire. They instantly had an impact at a time when West Brom were starting to assert their authority on the game.
McCann got stuck in and made a few good tackles in the middle of the park. It stopped Valerien Ismael’s side progressing up the pitch and gave us some much needed possession. Connor Wickham quickly showed his hold up play and his strength.
Whilst Maguire had put in a great shift up front again, he can only do so much with all the long balls up to him. Wickham dealt with them better and could win, control and lay off the ball. A similar option to Ched Evans but hopefully plenty more to come from him.