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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Big Match Preview

Preston North End vs. West Bromwich Albion
Saturday October 3, 12:45, Deepdale

The Sky TV cameras are in town this weekend as third host second in an early kick off in the Coca-Cola Championship. High-flying Preston and West Brom both suffered surprise defeats in midweek and will be aiming to get back on track as they face one another.

Extra spice is also added to this encounter as Preston manager Alan Irvine turned down the opportunity to move to West Brom over the summer. The 51-year-old Scot chose to remain at Deepdale and Roberto Di Matteo took on the job instead.

And the Italian got off to a flying start with the relegated Baggies, unbeaten in their first eight league games, including a thumping 5-0 win at fellow promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough.

However, the wheels have slightly come off the West Midlands club's promotion hopes in the last week. A 1-0 loss at home to Crystal Palace was followed by Tuesday evening's 3-1 collapse at struggling Barnsley.

Not exactly a crisis, but the former MK Dons boss will be keen for his side to get back to winning ways in Lancashire on Saturday lunchtime.

The squad contains many of the players who appeared in the Premier League last season, with left winger Chris Brunt already notching up four goals, and striker Roman Bednar, returning from a ban, with three.

Indeed, thirteen different players have already got on the scoresheet for the men from the Black Country, a sign of their attacking threat.

Preston boss Irvine could have been in Di Matteo's chair this season

However, a trip to Deepdale is always one of the toughest on offer in the second tier. Preston had the best home record in the division last season, and despite their midweek home defeat to Reading, the Lilywhites look similarly strong on home soil this term.

Irvine's side have collected 18 points from their first 10 matches, including a win at Leicester which ended the home side's year long unbeaten record. However, he's also had to contend with the loss of star defender Sean St. Ledger to Middlesbrough.

Fortunately, North End haven't found goals hard to come by at the other end, with strikers Neil Mellor, Jon Parkin, and Chris Brown all consistently finding the back of the net so far this season.

PNE are also the only Championship side to score in every league and cup game this term, so the visitors may find keeping them out a difficult prospect. However, Di Matteo's side are also full of attacking quality themselves.

Of last season's top six, only Champions Wolves won away at Deepdale, so beating Preston on home soil is a good marker for the rest of the campaign. Albion may well have to settle for a draw against Irvine's determined team on this occasion though.

Nobes' Prediction: Preston North End 1 West Bromwich Albion 1

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