West Bromwich 4 Preston North End 2: Ellington rides to the rescue for shaky West Brom

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The Independent Football

Four goals, four successive home wins, five games without defeat... West Bromwich Albion should have promotion written all over them.

Yet Preston North End still exposed some surprising shortcomings in a match settled only by two goals in the final 15 minutes by the substitute Nathan Ellington.

The first was a real howler against the visiting keeper Carlo Nash, whose manager Paul Simpson must wonder what might have happened had Danny Dichio's red card not left him a player light for 49 minutes.

Albion, two up in 25 minutes, yielded an equaliser despite their numerical advantage and were ragged following some inspired counter-attacking in the first half.

Jason Koumas showed a wonderful first touch to bring Darren Carter's floated ball down to perfection, the instant control taking him past Graham Alexander before Simon Whaley was also wrong-footed prior to a delicious curling shot beyond Nash.

That fifth-minute breakthrough was followed by a devastating break for the second. Curtis Davies overlapped Carter on the left and his cross was slammed home first time by Diomansy Kamara's left foot.

Even then, Preston had played a full part in a rousing contest, with David Nugent twice and Danny Pugh sounding warnings that increased in volume when Russell Hoult had to superbly push away Paul McKenna's 20-yarder.

Although Kamara had fired just wide at the other end, it was no shock when Preston found a fresh foothold in the 35th minute.

The goal was a gift from Paul Robinson or the referee Scott Mathieson, depending on your allegiances, the full-back being adjudged to have handled Matt Hill's long centre as he tried to chest down. Alexander has a penalty record approaching Matt Le Tissier standards and scored with his usual conviction.

The towering Dichio, given a generous pre-match welcome by fans at one of his former clubs, just had time to head wide from three yards from McKenna's corner before his holiday programme ended in a flash.

Albeit without great force or malice, he floored Paul McShane by flailing the sort of elbow that brings only one result these days - and left Nugent a lonely figure.

That Preston still fashioned an equaliser midway through the second half - the striker turning in Chris Sedgwick's hard, low centre - says much for their resourcefulness. But they could not have allowed for Nash letting a 25-yard free-kick from the newly introduced Ellington to squirm under his body to restore Albion's lead.

Second-placed Preston barely managed another threat before Ellington headed home Robinson's cross, with Nash this time making an unsuccessful advance from his line.

West Bromwich (4-4-2): Hoult; Albrechtsen, Davies, McShane, Robinson; Kamara, Greening, Carter (Ellington, 71), Koumas; Phillips (Chaplow, 86), Hartson (Quashie, 60). Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Perry,

Preston (4-4-2): Nash; Alexander, St Ledger, Chilvers, Hill; Whaley (Miller, 38), Sedgwick, McKenna (Wilson, 67), Pugh (Ormerod, 82); Nugent, Dichio. Substitutes not used: Lonergan (gk), Neal.

Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).

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