Handy Lonergan keeps Albion at bay

Preston North End 0 West Bromwich Albion 0
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The Independent Football

Two teams with serious early-season Premier League aspirations met here yesterday and produced a spectacle typical of the Championship: rich in endeavour, but poor in quality.

West Bromwich have more reason to be happy with the outcome, since the result arrested their mini-slump of two defeats following the 5-0 victory at Middlesbrough last month, and prevented Preston climbing above them into second place.

Graham Dorrans, a 22-year-old diminutive Scot purchased for £100,000 from Livingston 15 months ago, had the game's three best chances, but on each occasion was denied by the North End goalkeeper, Andy Lonergan. Their personal duel was the game's stand-out feature, and Lonergan kept the best of his saves until injury time, diving to his left to claw away a header which looked destined to settle the outcome.

Albion, the Championship's top scorers, have become goal shy, having hit the target just once in their last three matches, although manager Roberto Di Matteo remained pragmatic. "A point at Preston is always a good point. It is not an easy place to come to," he said. "I thought we were perhaps unfortunate not to get all three. We had the chances but their goalkeeper made some very good saves. We are struggling to create as many chances as we were, but then we are missing a few players who can give us the edge."

The Preston boss, Alan Irvine – who was reportedly an Albion target to replace their former manager, Tony Mowbray, before Di Matteo's appointment in the summer – said: "I thought a draw was a fair result. Neither side dominated the game for long enough to deserve to win. We gave the ball away too carelessly at times in the first half and I asked the players to be tidier in the second half, which they were. But we know we owe our goalkeeper, who has been making big saves for us ever since I came here."

Scott Carson, in the Albion goal, had a quieter afternoon but would have been unable to prevent Neil Collins giving the home side the lead on the stroke of half-time had the defender's header been on target instead of being a fraction wide.