Albion competition hots up
Saturday December 29th
MINDFUL of the tough trip to Ipswich to come on New Year's Day, West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray is likely to ring the changes for Scunthorpe United's visit to The Hawthorns.
The clash with the Iron continues a sequence of eight games in 32 days, which has so far produced four wins, a draw and two defeats - enough to send the Baggies to the top of the Championship table.
Mowbray has plenty of selection possibilities, with Leon Barnett and Martin Albrechtsen pushing for a start in defence, Chris Brunt and Filipe Teixeira back from minor injury and illness respectively and hoping for midfield recalls plus Ishmael Miller and Craig Beattie desperate to get the nod up front.
The boss's team selection seems to be getting more difficult as the season progresses. Some players seemingly needed more time to settle into the system but now they've bedded in competition for places is hotting up.
Mowbray is likely to stick with the 4-4-2 system that so stylishly produced three points against Bristol City on Boxing Day.
Roman Bednar, after seven goals in the seven games since his full debut in the 2-1 win at Plymouth Argyle, is due a rest after his wonderful run and may drop to the bench.
But choosing the right time to rest a player enjoying a rich vein of form is always a tricky one for a manager.
On paper, Scunthorpe's visit should result in three easy points. But in the first League meeting of the two clubs back in September the Iron ran Albion close in a 3-2 thriller that ended the home side's nine-month unbeaten home run.
Scunthorpe have achieved nothing better than a solitary draw in the only four games between the two and Albion need to keep that run going to ensure they stay at or near the top of the pile.
ALBION manager Tony Mowbray has impressed on his players ahead of the clash with Scunthorpe the importance of not taking their foot off the gas. He told the club's official website:
'We're top on goal difference but if you lose a game you might drop to second; if you lose another you may drop to fifth; and if you lose another you might fall to tenth. That's how tight it is.
'Our current form is good but we've got some tough games coming up.
'When you play teams like Scunthorpe, you have to make sure you're at it and that the adrenalin and intensity levels are there.`
West Bromwich Albion Team News:
West Bromwich Albion from: Kiely, Steele, Hoefkens, Cesar, Pele, Albrechtsen, Barnett, Robinson, Gera, Koren, Greening, Morrison, Beattie, Phillips, Bednar, Miller
Player to watch: Ishmael Miller
ON-LOAN striker Ishmael Miller is chomping at the bit waiting for a start after recovering from his knee injury. If he gets the nod there could be fireworks.
Scunthorpe Unted Team News:
DEFENDER Cliff Byrne is suspended after collecting two yellow cards in Scunthorpe's 1-0 win at Preston on Boxing Day. Fellow defender Kelly Youga is available again following his four-game ban and is likely to replace Byrne.
Manager Nigel Adkins has no other new injury problems and, Byrne apart, is expected to continue with the line-up that gave the Iron their first win in 12 league matches at Deepdale.
Player to watch: Martin Paterson
SCUNTHORPE aren't finding goals easy to come by, but 20-year-old striker Martin Paterson has managed 10 in 19 starts for the Iron. The Northern Ireland international netted his side's winner in the 1-0 success at Preston on Boxing Day
Match Facts & Stats
ALBION and Scunthorpe met for the first time in a League game at Glanford Park in September, the visitors winning 3-2.
Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)
Sent off Neil Clement and Darren Carter the last time he refereed at The Hawthorns when the Baggies went down 1-0 to Sheffield Wednesday back in April.
Ipswich Town v West Bromwich Albion
Portman Road, Tuesday January 1
Kick off: 3pm