Express & Star

Play-off prediction: Can West Brom navigate a way into the top six?

It could be a thrilling finale to the Championship season as Albion look to make a run to the play-offs.


The odds look stacked against them, but Lewis Cox looks at each of their remaining fixtures to give his verdict on whether they can make it into the top six.

Albion v Millwall – April 1

This feels like a really big one. A welcome back to action at The Hawthorns, where Albion have been imperious, following a long old break. And it just so happens to be promotion rivals Millwall, sitting in sixth, as visitors. It could hardly be set up more tantalisingly as the perfect way for league football to resume. Jed Wallace will be as fired up as anybody against his old club. Gary Rowett’s ranks are flying, with ex-Walsall and Shrewsbury man Tom Bradshaw banging in the goals – but a roaring home crowd will see the Baggies home here.

Prediction Win – 3 points

Rotherham v Albion – April 7

Trickier than it appears on paper, definitely. The Millers will still be scrapping tooth and nail to secure survival. Albion should have the quality, but nothing has been easy on the road of late. Rotherham were put to the sword at The Hawthorns after the World Cup break in December, but while Albion have made light work of opposition in familiar surroundings, it has been a different story away from the Black Country. A point will not be deemed or reflected on as good enough and the visitors will lick their wounds if they can’t take all three. The New York Stadium is uncompromising – this won’t be a stroll in the park.

Prediction Draw – 1 point

Albion v QPR – April 10

Whereas this really should play out as a lovely Bank Holiday Monday stroll in the park – but it never quite works like that, especially in the Championship and especially at the business end of the season. QPR’s form has been awful for months, with just a single win since mid-December and new boss Gareth Ainsworth pulling up no trees. Carlos Corberan’s men will be too strong in this one in a welcome pick-me-up from bringing just a point home from Rotherham. Tougher tests lay ahead, with back-to-back trips on the road to come.

Prediction Win – 3 points

Stoke v Albion – April 15

Uh oh. It’s the dreaded Stoke away. Albion’s record in the Potteries over a number of years is so bad it will leave travelling fans in cold sweats merely contemplating the short trip. I fear the Baggies may come unstuck once more at the Bet365 Stadium – and that is despite Alex Neill’s hosts seemingly having little to play for. They currently sit 13th, but adrift of the chasing play-off pack, though that could of course change. The Baggies’ hopes are their hosts are ‘on the beach’ with an eye on their summer holidays – but the Potters have looked bright of late. It could be a day to forget.

Prediction Defeat – 0 points

Blackpool v Albion – April 18

But, fear not! Albion will bounce back and respond in style a few days later and finally achieve that elusive victory on the road. It will be joy on the seaside – if not a spectacular affair – as Mick McCarthy’s strugglers will be swept aside on a confident spring evening for the Baggies. Blackpool’s form has been erratic of late, summed up best by the fact their only victory in six was a 6-1 thrashing of out-of-sorts QPR. Currently second-bottom and four points from safety with games in hand for rivals elsewhere, the Seasiders could find themselves even further adrift by then.

Prediction Win – 3 points

Albion v Sunderland – April 23

This is a biggie – and has been given Sky Sports TV status as a result. Tony Mowbray returns to The Hawthorns with his side rank outsiders for a top-six push. Currently 11th and two points behind Albion, but you wouldn’t put it past Mowbray to round the Black Cats into position where this sleepy Sunday midday kick-off really means something for both. A fascinating clash, but Baggies will have too much at home with the Black Cats still a little shy of goalscoring nous with injury problems in their frontline. Having said that, a run of wins and the Wearsiders will descend on the Black Country with an eye on reeling in their hosts.

Prediction Win – 3 points

Sheffield United v Albion

By some distance the trickiest away fixture left, certainly when it comes to the league table and quality of squad. A possible saving grace at Bramall Lane is that the Blades will either be on cloud nine after reaching an FA Cup final – or more likely licking their wounds after taking heavy damage from semi-final foes Manchester City a few days earlier. Whichever it is, Paul Heckingbottom’s men could be nursing a hangover in a case of after the Lord Mayor’s show and the visitors can take advantage. It is probable, though, that the Blades, who have stuttered of late, will be pushing to maintain or seal automatic promotion.

Prediction Draw – 1 point

Albion v Norwich

The penultimate fixture and Albion’s last time at The Hawthorns in front of their home fans – barring a play-off semi-final home leg. This looks to me like the toughest of Albion’s remaining four home fixtures and I have tipped both of these clubs to have a successful late push into the top six. The Canaries have enjoyed a new lease of life under David Wagner, who knows a thing or two about successful Championship finishes. I don’t see them as able to come to the Black Country and win, though. I reckon the points will be shared on a tight and nervy afternoon where eyes are looking at results elsewhere.

Prediction Draw – 1 point

Swansea v Albion

The final day in south Wales – coronation day as King Charles is officially pronounced ruler of the land. If the above results play out anywhere near as predicted then Corberan’s men travel across the border for a must-win fixture. Fifteen points from the eight clashes previously will have the Baggies on 70 points – not bad, but 73 is much more likely to really put Albion in contention. The away form remains a concern, indeed I’ve tipped them to drop points at Rotherham, Stoke and Sheffield United, but should Albion need three points to secure a play-off place and hope of promotion to the Premier League then I’d back them to achieve it here.

Prediction Win – 3 points

Points taken – 18

Predicted final

position – 6th