After earning a point at the Hawthorns on Saturday, Neil Harris brings his Millwall side back to the Black Country for a Carabao Cup tie on Tuesday evening.
Both sides are likely to field very different line-ups to the ones that fought out the 1-1 draw in the Championship, with Slaven Bilić likely to field some or all of his deadline day signings that were missing from the squad on Saturday.
I would not be surprised to see all four of Charlie Austin, Grady Diangana, Matheus Pereira and Chris Willock given significant game time on Tuesday along with other squad members who have not seen much action so far this season such as new signing, Darnell Furlong, plus Conor Townsend, Dara O’Shea, Jack Fitzwater, Rekeem Harper, Chris Brunt, Oliver Burke and Hal Robson-Kanu. It will be an opportunity for these players to impress Bilić and try to earn a spot in the squad for the trip to Luton next weekend.
Neil Harris is likely to take a similar approach in using the fringe players in his squad, although there is always the chance that he will field a strong team in an attempt to keep their good start to the season going.
The Carabao Cup will not be a priority for Bilić, but it is a chance to give game time to new signings and fringe players, and progression to the next round would provide another welcome opportunity. Furthermore, the winning mentality is always something to hold on to, and with the Baggies unbeaten so far this season, it would be pleasing to see that run continue.
Tuesday will be just the third League Cup tie between Albion and Millwall, with the two clubs not having met in the competition since 1983. Ron Wylie’s side were in Division One at the time and sat seventh in the table when they made the trip to Cold Blow Lane for the first of a two-legged second round tie in what was then known as the Milk Cup. Millwall were then a Third Division side and were managed by George Graham. They tore into the Baggies scoring twice through Dean Neal in the first five minutes, and adding a third through Steve Lowndes with ten minutes left.
Two weeks later, the two sides met for the return leg at the Hawthorns with many of the 13,000 who attended that night feeling that it was pretty much a lost cause for the hosts.
Albion could have done with an early goal and it was they who threatened first. Cyrille Regis played a through ball from inside his own half for Mick Perry to run on to, but he couldn’t beat Peter Wells in the Lions’ goal. Regis was next to test Wells, but once again he proved too good as he saved well from a close range shot.
At the other end, Ken McNaught put in a challenge on Dean Neal after the ball had been spilled by Tony Godden – he got some of the ball and a lot of the player, and would have certainly given away a penalty had it been today, but back in the eighties it was a different game and the referee was unmoved! Dean White went close for the visitors with an overhead kick from the edge of the box before the Baggies finally broke the deadlock two minutes before half time.
It was Gary Owen who made it, chipping a delightful ball over the defence for Garry Thompson to volley home sparking a brief pitch invasion from the visiting supporters.
Four minutes into the second half, it was 2-0. Zondervan’s corner was played back to Barry Cowdrill who’s perfectly weighted cross was headed home by Cyrille Regis. Game on! Five minutes later, Dave Cusack brought down Garry Thompson in the box, and Gary Owen converted the penalty to square the game on aggregate.
Albion finally took the lead in the tie with twenty minutes left. Gary Owen picked up the ball on the halfway line and went on a mazy run beating several players before chipping over a cross from the right side for Thompson to head home, his second of the game. Minutes later, he was denied a hat trick when he got his head onto Clive Whitehead’s perfect ball only for Wells to save.
On 77 minutes, Whitehead was again involved as he threaded a ball into the box that was picked up by Romeo Zondervan he turned inside and the ball ran to Regis. With his back to goal about 12 yards out, he turned his defender and smashed the ball into the net to make it 5-0 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate.
Barry Cowdrill was keen to get in on the act when he ran onto a knock down from Thompson – his sweet volley was just inches too high as the ball smacked against the bar.
Millwall made the last couple of minutes a tad nervous when substitute, Dave Martin, poked home from close range, but Albion held on for a memorable comeback and a place in round three. They ultimately went out to Aston Villa in round four.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
10 Aug 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Pearce (o.g.))
Millwall 1 (Smith)
22 Sep 2018 – League Championship
West Brom 2 (Gayle, Gibbs)
Albion’s Record against Millwall