Preston suffered heartbreak on Monday night as a controversial late penalty handed West Bromwich Abion victory at Deepdale.
North End went into the game off the back of two defeats, but most importantly, with a host of injuries. Darnell Fisher, Patrick Bauer, Ben Davies and Andrew Hughes were all ruled out; arguably Preston’s strongest back four.
Alex Neil had to patch a defence together, featuring a number 10 at right back, a right back at left back and two centre backs who have barely featured this season.
Preston were under pressure in the first half, but held firm. West Brom were being frustrated by a hard-working and compact Preston side, and that continued for much of the second half too.
North End were a little more adventurous after the break, and created three big chances. Daniel Johnson forced an outstanding save from Sam Johnstone, Alan Browne had a shot blocked on the line and Jayden Stockley headed over from close range with the Baggies wobbling.
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It looked like the game would peter out to a 0-0 draw, but there was a sting in the tail. Kyle Edwards broke through on goal in the dying stages, and tumbled over a challenge from Declan Rudd. The referee pointed to the spot, though replays show there was little to no contact.
Charlie Austin scored from the spot, leaving Preston devastated. An injury-hit side battled away against the league leaders and could have on another day, with a dive essentially needed to give West Brom all three points.
Alex Neil should be so proud of his team, and especially with Paul Huntington. That was his first league start since January, and just his second appearance of the season, yet he was superb alongside Jordan Storey.
The 32-year-old looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, and Preston fans took to Twitter to hail the ‘Cumbrian Cannavaro’, whose commitment to the club over the last seven years is well-appreciated.
Fans called Huntington ‘class’, ‘superb’ and ‘brilliant’, whilst praising his professionalism having been on the fringes of the side for so long in 2020.