A win for the Baggies on Saturday would not only see them record their best run of victories this season, but it would also be their first ever victory at the New Den. More pertinently, it would keep Albion’s faint hopes of automatic promotion alive.
Albion are on a run of three victories for the fourth time this season, but they have always failed to extend that so far. Norwich, Leeds and Bristol City, by comparison, have all had seven match winning streaks and the Canaries could make it eight on Saturday lunchtime when they face QPR.
The Baggies’ opponents this weekend are on a run of just one win in seven games in all competitions, and five without a win at home. Their last win at the New Den was over Everton in the FA Cup in late January and, in a record that will sound familiar to Albion fans, they are yet to record a home league win in 2019.
That record has left the Lions just one place and one point outside of the relegation zone and at serious risk of dropping back into the third tier after two seasons in the Championship. Neil Harris has managed to engineer something of a recovery of late, however, in terms of performances if not points.
After defeat at crisis club, Bolton Wanderers, four weeks ago, their fourth successive defeat, Millwall won away to Birmingham City and were minutes away from playing in the FA Cup Semi-Final this weekend rather than facing the Baggies, but two late goals from Brighton took the game into extra time and the Seagulls ultimately progressed on penalties. Last weekend, the Lions made a much better fist of a trip to Elland Road than Albion did last month but ultimately left with the same number of points. They twice led against Leeds, but Bielsa’s team came back to win 3-2.
Playing teams fighting against relegation during the run in is never easy as Albion well know. Strugglers Leicester and QPR won at the Hawthorns in successive games in 2015 and, in the remarkable run in 17 years ago, the only points Gary Megson’s team dropped in their last eight games were against Rotherham United who earned a point that was vital for them in avoiding the drop.
Millwall will present a stern test for Jimmy Shan’s team, and they will need to produce another strong performance to get all three points. Albion have improved in each game under Shan. While they did concede the first goals of his reign against Blues last weekend, the overall performance was another step up from Brentford particularly from an attacking point of view.
The nature of the comeback certainly showed that the players are all pulling together under the caretaker boss, although whether those that appear to have been sidelined since Moore’s departure may not necessarily feel the same way. Big Dave was always able to keep the group together, whether they were playing or not, and I’d hope that Shan has been able to keep that spirit.
Montero, Field, Hoolahan, Adarabioyo and Gibbs have not been in a matchday squad since the change of Head Coach, although Gibbs has been injured. Barry, another who has been struggling with injury, has also been absent other than being an unused substitute at Griffin Park. Injuries could mean that some or all of those players will be needed before the end of the season.
The squad may get more use this week as Albion face a midweek trip to Bristol City, but I’m not expecting too many changes to the team that faced Birmingham City for the game on Saturday. With Shan’s team playing a more direct style, I’d like to see Hal Robson-Kanu in the starting line-up as his hold up play is better than anyone else in the squad. Whether that is at the expense of a forward or a midfielder is another question. I would be tempted to start with Gayle on the bench, although given that he ended his barren spell last weekend, it may be sensible to keep him in the side.
I do think that the midfield three of Brunt, Livermore and Morrison is too pedestrian, and it took the introduction of HRK to turn things around against Blues. Harper may be recalled – he played the full 90 minutes against Swansea in Shan’s first game but hasn’t featured since – and Sam Field is another option yet to be used by the caretaker boss. Stefan Johansen, who played the full match at Brentford and was on the bench for Swansea and Birmingham, will also be under consideration.
The other thing to consider is whether Chris Brunt can play three games in a week – he has struggled to do that so far this season and it may be that Shan saves him for the theoretically more difficult match at Ashton Gate on Tuesday evening, although he also has the option of leaving him out for next week’s visit of Preston.
While Shan has managed youth teams, these sorts of considerations will be a new type of problem for him to consider. He will obviously have been involved in these decisions in his role as a first team coach, but he now has the final say.
He has the tools at his disposal to ensure that Albion record their first ever win at the New Den, but it won’t be easy against a side fighting for their Championship lives.
Albion visit the New Den on Saturday for just the sixth time, and they are yet to taste victory. The Baggies’ first trip to the Lions’ new home was in October 1993 in the reign of Keith Burkinshaw. Jon Goodman gave Mick McCarthy’s team the lead before Alex Rae made it two from the spot. Albion scored a late consolation through Darren Bradley.
Goodman was on the mark almost 12 months later when the Baggies returned to the New Den. He scored twice but so did Bob Taylor and the visitors escaped with a point. Albion lost on their next two visits but on their last trip to South Bermondsey, in April 2004, ex-Baggie Danny Dichio gave Millwall a first half lead but Andy Johnson equalised after the break to make it 1-1 at full time.
The Baggies’ last win at Millwall was way back in April 1987 when Bobby Williamson scored the only goal of the game at Cold Blow Lane. That was the only time that Teddy Sheringham failed to find the net in seven games for Millwall against Albion. He managed no fewer than ten goals in those seven games including back-to-back hat-tricks, one at the Hawthorns and one at the Den, in 4-1 wins albeit three years apart in 1987 and 1990.
That win in October 1990 is Millwall’s biggest home win over Albion – Alex Rae scored the Lions’ other goal while Colin West was on target for the visitors.
The Baggies’ biggest win at the Den was in December 1938. Harry Jones (2), Ike Clarke, Sandy McNab and Sammy Heaselgrave all found the net in a 5-1 win while Jimmy Richardson scored a consolation for Millwall.
Albion won on their first ever trip to the Den in the first round of the FA Cup in 1924, the only time that the clubs have been drawn in that competition. Their only other win at the venue was in 1946 when Jim Duggan and Davy Walsh scored for the Baggies in a 2-1 win.
This weekend’s match will be the 34th league meeting between the sides and every one has been in the second tier. Millwall’s only two seasons in the top flight were in the late eighties when Albion were in Division Two, while a few years later, the Lions remained in the second tier during the Baggies’ brief sojourn to the division below.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
22 Sep 2018 – League Championship
West Brom 2 (Gayle, Gibbs)
Last meeting at Millwall
12 Apr 2004 – League Division 1
Millwall 1 (Dichio)
West Brom 1 (Johnson)
Last win at Millwall
25 Apr 1987 – League Division 2
West Brom 1 (Williamson)
Albion’s Record against Millwall