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Charlie Austin’s late penalty sinks Preston to put West Brom back on top

A disputed last-minute penalty from Charlie Austin sent West Brom back to the top of the Championship with a 1-0 win at Preston

A disputed last-minute penalty from Charlie Austin sent West Brom back to the top of the Championship at Preston, where they secured a fifth successive win to move above Leeds.

Slaven Bilic’s side looked likely to rue a number of missed chances in the first half as they struggled to break through a resilient Preston defence but the spot-kick took them two points clear, while Preston slipped to a third successive defeat and their unbeaten home record in the league came to an end.

The visitors were much the better side in the first half and Bilic would have been frustrated his side failed to lead at the break.

After a sedate opening, Nathan Ferguson had the first effort after 22 minutes. The West Brom right-back’s surging run carried him from his own half to the edge of the box but his fierce drive was tipped over by Declan Rudd. More chances followed. Matt Phillips picked up the ball following a corner and curled a left-foot effort just wide from 22 yards. Phillips then turned provider just after the half hour mark as his free-kick from the right found Kyle Bartley unmarked at the far post but the centre-back side-footed wide with a clear sight of goal.

Phillips’ turn and shot inside the area after 35 minutes was comfortably held by Rudd, before his powerful low drive was tipped around a post.

Preston’s only opening of a disjointed 45 minutes fell to Sean Maguire who broke in behind from a throw but the striker fired straight at Sam Johnstone from a tight angle.

Alex Neil’s side were much improved in the second half and created a flurry of chances just after the hour. Maguire’s layoff found Daniel Johnson, whose curling effort was tipped wide by the former Preston loanee Johnstone. West Brom failed to clear the resulting corner and the ball was squared to Alan Browne at the far post but his powerful shot was brilliantly blocked by Ferguson.

Once again West Brom were tested from the corner but Jayden Stockley was unable to direct his header on target from a couple of yards out.

Bilic’s side increasingly struggled to break through a resilient defence as the match wore on but the big moment came in the 89th minute as Kyle Edwards surged through on goal and won a controversial decision against the sprawling Rudd. Austin sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to seal victory. “I don’t think out players deserved that,” Neil said.

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