West Bromwich Albion v Millwall; The Hawthorns, Saturday 23rd September 2023, 3pm
Albion play their fourth home game of the season on Saturday looking to return to winning ways having failed to record a victory in their last three games. A last gasp defeat to Huddersfield in their last match at the Hawthorns and creditable points on the road at Bristol City and Watford have seen the Baggies drop into the bottom half of the table – they now sit in 15th spot one point and four places below Saturday’s opponents Millwall.
Gary Rowett’s team have, like Albion, had a mixed start to the season but are fresh from a 3-0 home victory over Rotherham United in midweek, although that followed a similarly comprehensive 3-0 home defeat by Leeds United last weekend. On the road, they won on the opening day at Middlesbrough, lost at Norwich City and drew 1-1 at Birmingham City at the beginning of this month.
Among ten new faces at the Den this summer is striker, Kevin Nisbet, who joined from Hibernian boasting an impressive scoring record in Scottish football – he has started well with two goals already with the winner in the 1-0 home win over Stoke City and the opener at St Andrew’s in the 1-1 draw. Montenegrin international goalkeeper, Matija Šarkić, joined from Wolves and started the first five games but has missed the last two through injury with Bartosz Białkowski returning between the posts. Full back, Brooke Norton-Cuffy, who was on loan at Coventry City last season, has joined on loan from Arsenal while Ryan Longman (from Hull City) and Allan Campbell (Luton Town) have also joined on season-long loans. Casper De Norre is another new signing in the middle of the park, the 25-year-old Belgian joining from OH Leuven, meaning that the midfield four that have started the last two games for the Lions are all new to the club this season. Joe Bryan (Fulham), Wes Harding (Rotherham) and Ethan Wady (Chelsea) complete the incomings, all of whom joined on free transfers.
Having kept the same starting line up for the match at Watford on Wednesday, Corberán is almost certain to make changes for this match. Jeremy Sarmiento has effectively been promised a start this week by the head coach, while I suspect Okay will be rested having played the full match at Vicarage Road, his first 90 minutes of the campaign. Alex Mowatt may well get the nod albeit Nathaniel Chalobah has often been CC’s first midfield change this season. Others who may be in line for some game time, if not a start, include Pipa, Diangana and maybe even Tom Fellows. I felt Conor Townsend did well when he came on on Wednesday and I wonder if he might get the nod given that BTA may need some support up top and Matt Phillips is one player with experience of leading the line.
The involvement of Jed Wallace will be an interesting quandary for Corberán, not only because of his indifferent form this season, but also because of his performances against Millwall last season. I felt his two games against his former club were his worst displays of the last campaign – having scored a great goal on Wednesday, I’m sure he will be desperate to play, but he certainly seemed to find it difficult against the Lions last season.
A win for Albion would make this first three-game-week of the season very satisfactory – anything less would be a little disappointing. With table-topping Preston North End up next, this is really a game that the Baggies need to win if they are to keep in touch with the top six.
Albion’s last victory over Millwall, in the midst of Storm Ciara in February 2020 just before the COVID pandemic suspended football for three months is their only win over the Lions in the eight meetings. Their last win at the Hawthorns was in September 2018, almost five years to the day before Saturday’s game when goals from Dwight Gayle and Kieran Gibbs earned Darren Moore’s team a 2-0 victory.
This game will be just the 47th fixture between the teams and Millwall lead the head-to-head record with 19 wins to 15. At the Hawthorns, Albion have won 10 of the 23 games with the Lions having won six, most recently in the L:eague Cup in 2019. Their last league win at the Shrine was the infamous Thursday night fixture in October 2001 which came two days after Albion had played a League Cup tie against Charlton Athletic. Gary Megson was very vocal in his dismay at the scheduling, down to the soon-to-be-defunct ITV Digital broadcasting deal, and on the night, Richard Sadlier scored twice for Mark McGhee’s team to secure a 2-0 win.
One of the Baggies’ most memorable home wins over Millwall was in the League Cup in 1983 when Ron Wylie’s First Division team found themselves 3-0 down after the Second Round First Leg at the Den. Cyrille Regis had apparently been racially abused by some visiting fans before the match and he was suitably riled – he and Garry Thompson both scored twice, with Gary Owen also scoring from the spot as the hosts ran out 5-1 winners on the night, 5-4 on aggregate.
Albion went one better on Boxing Day 1929 – again there were two players who grabbed a brace, this time it was Tommy Glidden and Joe Carter, while Stan Wood and Ginger Richardson also scored in a 6-1 win to avenge the 2-1 defeat they had suffered at the Den the day before.
Millwall’s biggest win in West Bromwich was also on Boxing Day, but in 1987 when Teddy Sheringham notched a hat-trick in a 4-1 victory for John Docherty’s Division One-bound team who won seven matches in succession late in the season to secure the Division Two title.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
1 Apr 2023 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 0
9 Feb 2020 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Krovinovic, O’Shea)
Last win at the Hawthorns
22 Sep 2018 – League Championship
West Bromwich Albion 2 (Gayle, Gibbs)
Albion’s Record against Millwall