For a few heady minutes during the second half here last night, West Bromwich Albion harboured visions of returning to the First Division summit. Sheffield United's recovery at Milton Keynes put paid to that, but by maintaining their 100 per cent home record at the expense of Millwall, Albion clambered over Wigan into second place.
Jason Koumas set them on their way with a superb early goal before withdrawing from the fray almost immediately because of injury. Scott Dobie plunged Millwall into further arrears, only for Stuart Nethercott's reply to ensure a tense second half. For Albion, relegated in May, it is pleasurable pressure - and Sheffield United are next at The Hawthorns.
Gary Megson, the Albion manager, is hopeful that Koumas will be available for Saturday's visit to Gillingham. The Wales midfielder is less sure. "If you ask Jason, it's the end of the world and he'll be out for ages," Megson said. "But ask the physio and he'll tell you that it's a few fibres in his hamstring and shouldn't be any great problem."
Albion, despite the momentum generated by a sixth consecutive home victory, can ill-afford to be without Koumas. The Millwall manager, Mark McGhee, justifiably argued that his team could have done more to restrict him in the seconds before he struck his goal, yet he had no doubt that Koumas is "one of the best players in this division".
The contest was less than five minutes old when Koumas took possession on the right and began weaving his way across the face of the penalty area. After leaving Dennis Wise on his behind, he created the ideal angle to fire left-footed past Tony Warner from 20 yards.
Two minutes later, Koumas fell heavily under a Millwall challenge during another driving run and limped off. The reshuffle took Sean Gregan into midfield, but did nothing to slow Albion's momentum.
James O'Connor's 24th-minute cross saw Nethercott lose his footing as he tried to head clear. The ball sailed towards the far post, where Dobie followed up his winner against Stoke on Saturday by looping an angled header over Warner for his second goal of the season.
Millwall were slow to shrug off the sapping effects of Sunday's derby at West Ham. But in first-half stoppage time, Wise's corner found Nethercott, who swept in from close range. The visitors had the better of a scrappy second half but, tellingly, Warner remained the busier keeper.
West Bromwich Albion (3-5-2): Hoult; Gregan, Gaardsoe, Gilchrist; Haas, O'Connor, Koumas (Berthe, 9), Johnson, Clemence; Hulse, Dobie (Dichio, 80). Substitutes not used: Murphy (gk), Hughes, Sakiri.
Millwall (4-4-2): Warner; Lawrence, Nethercott, Ward, Craig (Whelan, h-t); Ifill, Cahill, Wise, Livermore; Harris (Robinson, 67), Peeters. Substitutes not used: Gueret (gk), Roberts, Dunne.
Referee: C Webster (Tyne and Wear).Reuse content