Throughout the second half of the 2018/19 season, millwallfc.co.uk will be analysing The Lions' opponents by taking a look back at their campaign so far. Millwall continue in their quest for Sky Bet Championship survival this Saturday as West Bromwich Albion visit The Den in The Lions’ first home League match for five weeks. With caretaker manager James Shan at the helm for The Baggies, form has improved as they make the trip to SE16. Here we take a look at Albion’s recent results.
Following their relegation from the Premier League last term, West Bromwich Albion had a task on their hands of maintaining stability around the club and the squad ahead of their first season in The Championship since 2009/10. With Darren Moore given the job on a full-time basis, pre-season got underway with victories over Barnet and Swindon Town. The summer schedule remained unbeaten for The Baggies, beating Barnsley and Coventry City following a draw with Aberdeen – scoring 15 goals in five games. Albion let go of talent including Nacer Chadli, Jonny Evans and Salomon Rondon, albeit with the latter replaced by Dwight Gayle. Sam Johnstone and Kyle Bartley also arrived at The Hawthorns, as well as exciting Leicester City prospect Harvey Barnes. The season ahead looked promising in the West Midlands.
West Brom’s reintroduction to life in The Championship was not about to start slowly, with the team involved in back-to-back games which collectively featured 15 goals. A shock home defeat to Bolton Wanderers started the campaign on a frustrating note, before registering their first point on the board at Nottingham Forest. A trip to Norwich City then followed, a contest which demonstrated why the two sides are the League’s highest scorers. Moore’s side came from behind to win the game 4-3, before demolishing QPR on their return to The Hawthorns, a 7-1 thrashing after the sides stood level at half-time. After a 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, West Brom finished August in seventh. Away from League action, the team successfully navigated through the first two rounds of the Carabao Cup, eliminating Luton Town and Mansfield Town respectively at The Hawthorns.
Albion would gain momentum during September, dropping just two points across five Championship games. Starting the month with a 2-1 home win over Stoke City, West Brom then played out a 1-1 draw at Birmingham City. A 4-2 win over Bristol City followed, before Neil Harris’ Millwall side made the trip to The Hawthorns. Despite a valiant showing from The Lions, goals from Gayle and Kieran Gibbs in the second half handed the points to Moore’s men. With the month’s low point coming with a 3-0 defeat in the Carabao Cup Third Round to Crystal Palace, Albion returned to winning ways with a 3-2 success at Preston North End to finish September no less than top of the pile.
Unfortunately for The Baggies, the end of September was the peak of the campaign in terms of League position. A 2-2 draw at Sheffield Wednesday – despite recovering from two goals down in the last five minutes – knocked the club off the top of The Championship, and following brief respite in the form of a 4-1 win against Reading, the club would go four without another three points. Albion were first beaten 1-0 by Wigan Athletic, before going down 4-1 at home to Derby County in an eyebrow-raising result. October ended with a point at home to Blackburn Rovers, with the side sitting fifth after 15 games.
With only four League games in November, points were gold dust for the competing sides at the summit of the table – none more so than for West Brom, who had suffered a frustrating previous few weeks. The sour spell looked to continue however, as Hull City took a 1-0 win over Moore’s team on Humberside. This was however to be Albion’s final defeat of 2018, as form took a drastic upturn with a 4-1 dumping of Leeds United at The Hawthorns after a blistering second half of attacking football. Successive away victories at Ipswich Town and Swansea City after the international break further raised spirits around West Bromwich, as Albion sat fourth and well in the promotion mix.
The busy minefield of December in The Championship is a challenge for any club, and despite numerous draws, West Brom stretched their unbeaten streak and picked up 12 points from a possible 18 before the turn of the year. Shipping a late equaliser at home to Brentford, The Baggies followed the 1-1 scoreline up with an entertaining 2-2 West Midlands derby draw with Aston Villa. Two trips to South Yorkshire followed before Christmas, with maximum points for Moore’s outfit in the shape of a solid 2-1 win at Sheffield United, before Gayle’s hat-trick as they swept aside Rotherham United 4-0. A 2-0 win over Wigan on Boxing Day was succeeded by a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday – a last-gasp David Jones own goal securing an Albion point. West Brom again improved on their standing, slotting into third as 2019 beckoned.
On the transfer front, Moore suffered a blow with the recall of in-form youngster Barnes by Leicester, with the manager recruiting through the loan market in the winter window. Wide players Jacob Murphy and Jefferson Montero filled the void, with Fulham midfielder Stefan Johansen also arriving until the end of the season, alongside England U21 defender Mason Holgate. A first League defeat in two months began the New Year, as Blackburn took a 2-1 win at Ewood Park, before the Emirates FA Cup Third Round got underway with Albion overcoming Wigan 1-0 on home soil. A late Norwich equaliser at The Hawthorns then denied West Brom three points on their return to League action, but they were to go one better at Bolton, taking a 2-0 win home from the UoB Stadium. The Baggies were drawn away to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Fourth Round of the Cup, playing out a respectable goalless draw on the south coast. West Brom finished a second successive month third in The Championship.
Seven games across League and Cup presented West Brom’s squad with a test of stamina as well as consistency in just 28 days, with Middlesbrough recovering from behind to win 3-2 at The Hawthorns to start the month. Matters did not immediately improve, as Brighton got the job done in the Cup Fourth Round replay, with The Baggies losing 3-1 after extra-time. The following four matches did provide West Brom a rise in form, firstly overcoming Stoke 1-0 in Staffordshire before a 2-2 home draw with Nottingham Forest and impressive away wins at Aston Villa and QPR. Still fourth in the table for over a month, this was undeterred by a 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield United – though this positioned Albion as significant promotion outsiders going into March.
March began in difficult circumstances for Baggies fans. A 4-0 hammering by Leeds at Elland Road was followed by a frustrating 1-1 home draw with bottom side Ipswich Town. Regarded as a controversial decision by much of the fanbase at The Hawthorns, Moore was dismissed by the club following the Ipswich clash and replaced by his long-term coaching acquaintance, James Shan – who had coached through the ranks from Under 7 level. Shan has however successfully taken the reins so far, clawing Albion back into the race for automatic promotion with wins over Swansea City, Brentford and Birmingham City in a 100% record for the caretaker boss. With seven matches remaining, West Brom sit six points outside the top two, and 11 points into the Play-Off positions.