West Bromwich Albion returned to winning ways at the Hawthorns on Tuesday evening, defeating Preston North End by two goals to nil at the Hawthorns.
Slaven Bilic saw his side defeat top-six contenders Bristol City 3-0 at Ashton Gate at the weekend, with Callum Robinson and Hal Robson-Kanu firing the Baggies towards an invaluable away win in the race for automatic promotion.
But the Croatian would have been urging his side to keep their foot on the gas and brush another play-off contender aside in midweek, in a bid to arrest a run of only one win from their last six home games in the Championship.
And the two goalscorers from the weekend combined to break the deadlock for Albion on Tuesday night, too, with only six minutes on the clock.
Making his first appearance against them since leaving Deepdale in the summer, Robinson picked the ball up just inside the North End half before driving forward with speed.
The winger then lofted a perfectly-weighted through ball onto the chest of Robson-Kanu, who took a touch before slotting underneath Declan Rudd.
Impressive work from the 30-year-old, who found himself sandwiched between Ben Davies and Andrew Hughes, before composing himself and producing a cool finish to fire the Baggies ahead.
It was just rewards for what had been a bright start from the hosts, who dominated the ball and tormented the visitors with their speed going forward, as they continued to threaten.
The dangerous Matheus Pereira was causing the majority of the problems, winning two free-kicks in quick succession and rolling the ball into the path of Filip Krovinovic, who curled a tame effort into Rudd’s palms from the edge of the area.
Pereira was very nearly the architect for Robinson on 28 minutes, as the latter went in search of his third goal in as many games. The 25-year-old was threaded in by the Brazilian, but his shot was stopped by Rudd and the ball spun away from danger.
Preston had offered next to nothing at that time, and squandered a good chance through David Nugent just a couple of minutes later. The striker – brought in to make his ninth start of the season – headed narrowly past Sam Johnstone’s far post after a great cross by Darnell Fisher from the right.
Albion created a carbon copy of the aforementioned chance with eight minutes of the first-half remaining. Pereira, once again, picking up pockets of space between the thirds before threading a sublime pass through to Robinson.
Once again, though, Rudd was down low to match Robinson’s powerful left-footed effort, as the scores somehow remained 1-0.
Not for much longer, though, as Robinson and Robson-Kanu combined once again on the stroke of half-time.
Robinson, receiving the ball on the right this time, floated another delicious lofted pass into the chest of Robson-Kanu, but this time the latter turned provider. The ball fell kindly for Jake Livermore, who bent a superb half-volley past Rudd despite falling backwards.
A perfect end to a magnificent first-half for the Baggies then, with Preston boss Alex Neil cutting a hugely frustrated figure whilst heading down the tunnel.
The Scot would have undoubtedly been looking for a huge improvement from his side in the second-half, but despite seeing a lot more of the ball in the first 10 minutes, they failed to move it around as efficiently as their opponents.
In fact, it was Albion who came close to adding a third. A dangerous corner evaded everyone, before Ahmed Hegazi met the ball on the half-volley and fired a dangerous effort just wide.
North End’s night went from bad to worse just after the hour mark, too, when Darnell Fisher was shown a straight red card for a robust challenge on Robinson on the touchline.
Robinson and Fisher both went in for a loose ball on halfway, but the former beat his former teammate to it and found himself on the end of a poor tackle in the process.
The Baggies had to cope with 10 men for the final stages of the encounter against Bristol City at the weekend, but it was time for Bilic’s men to profit from an extra man and really turn on the heat for the final half-hour.
It was Bilic who made the first change of the night, though, and with one eye bound to be on this weekend’s home clash with Wigan Athletic, the majestic Pereira was replaced by Matty Phillips on 71 minutes.
Another change followed for both sides, with Albion taking off the terrific Robinson for Kamil Grosicki, with David Nugent being replaced by Scott Sinclair as the visitors looked to stage a miraculous comeback.
Grosicki looked to make an immediate impact for his side, producing a brilliant piece of skill to nutmeg Alan Browne and break away with sheer pace down the left, but he was unable to pull off a shot as Robson-Kanu made away for Charlie Austin shortly after.
Austin and Grosicki linked up brilliantly as they almost added a third goal. Rekeem Harper’s sharp pass from the left found Phillips in the middle – and his crisp first-time pass found Grosicki,.
The latter tapped the ball into the path of Austin, but his curling left-footed effort was matched by Rudd, who was really keeping his team in this.
There was nearly a chance for Harper to mark his first league start of the season with a goal, but his curling effort from the edge of the area could only rattle the crossbar on the cusp of stoppage time.
Preston were unable to show any real signs of danger throughout the full 90 minutes whatsoever, in fact, they didn’t even manage to register a single shot on target as Albion ran rampant.
And after a dominant display, Albion saw out the win with very little fuss, defeating North End by two goals to nil – a win that sees them climb 10 points clear of third place, with Fulham facing Swansea on Wednesday night.