West Brom 4-1 Preston: Dwight Gayle hat-trick gets Baggies back to winning ways
Jay Rodriguez gets the other goal for West Brom as they cruise to victory.
Last Updated: 13/04/19 6:57pm
West Brom striker Dwight Gayle grabbed a hat-trick in a 4-1 Sky Bet Championship win against Preston at The Hawthorns.
Gayle struck first in the 27th minute and then grabbed his second four minutes later as Albion ended a run of back-to-back defeats to strengthen their position in the play-off zone.
Jay Rodriguez then grabbed his 21st of the season in the 43rd minute with Albion's third before Gayle completed his treble in the second half.
Preston striker Callum Robinson grabbed a last-minute consolation when he converted a Lukas Nmecha cross.
Preston manager Alex Neil, who has been linked with the vacant manager's job at Albion, cut a frustrated figure as he watched his side crash to a fourth successive defeat.
Albion made a positive start with captain Chris Brunt firing just wide and Stefan Johansen having his shot saved by goalkeeper Declan Rudd in the opening five minutes.
On-loan Fulham midfielder Johansen was at the forefront of Albion's early pressure and saw another shot deflected for a corner in the 13th minute.
Johansen then turned provider after 18 minutes to set up Rodriguez whose 20-yard shot was tipped over the bar by Rudd. From the resulting corner, Kyle Bartley headed into the side netting at the far post.
Preston finally tested Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone in the 27th minute when Ben Davies saw his deflected shot saved, but seconds later they were behind.
Preston were undone by a pin-point cross-field pass from Brunt. He picked out Gayle on the angle of the six-yard box and the on-loan Newcastle forward volleyed his shot into the far corner of the net.
Albion quickly doubled their advantage following a surging run into the area by Johansen. He was halted by a challenge from Ryan Ledson but the loose ball fell kindly to Gayle whose low shot gave Rudd no chance.
Johansen had a hand in Albion's third as well. His long-range shot was deflected into the path of Rodriguez who made no mistake from 12 yards.
Following their disappointing first-half performance, Preston looked more determined after the interval.
They almost reduced the arrears on the hour when Nmecha flashed a cross across the face of the Albion goal and Robinson was inches away from converting it at the far post.
But after that flurry, Albion took control again with Gayle completing his hat-trick with a close-range header.
Albion forced a corner when Rudd saved from Brunt and when the ball was swung into the crowded penalty area, Gayle was on hand to nod home at the far post.
Rudd then ensured that Albion did not grab a fifth with a smart save to deny Matt Phillips in the 84th minute before Robinson struck.
James Shan: "After two negatives results I was delighted the performance, the four goals scored and most importantly the three points. They (Gayle and Rodriguez) are both fighting it out to be our top goalscorer. I thought that to get our two highest scorers on the pitch was really important. It paid off today in the way that they played together.
Dwight gets three and Jay gets one and I think it has been a big strength them playing together. Knowing the pair of them, the way that are around the training ground and how competitive they are, being level pegging, it can only bode well for the football club in our remaining fixtures."
Alex Neil: "I thought that (the speculation) got to the players. It became a little bit of a pantomime before the game. I could see it in their eyes before the match. It has affected them and it has affected the day for the fans which I apologise for. The fact that it is because of me makes me really disappointed and frustrated. I feel as if I have ruined the day for the supporters. People write what they want and then it grows arms and legs.
"It needs to be brought to a conclusion. There has been no approach to Preston. So there is nothing to say. There is nothing for me to hide. When I'm not in control of the situation, it becomes tough. When you've got to make a decision to make, then you are in control. There is no decision to make.
"I'm the Preston manager, I've got a rolling contract and that was the case before the game and exactly is this second. I would imagine something would take place over the next couple of days and then whatever will happen will happen at that point."