Express & Star

West Brom face tough challenge ahead of Rotherham

Carlos Corberan admits his patched-up Albion troops face a challenge to go again at Rotherham tomorrow night.


The Baggies are feeling the strain with striker Josh Maja added to the absentee list after a hefty ankle blow in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Sunderland.

Jed Wallace, Matt Phillips and Daryl Dike are already missing in that department – though midfielder Okay Yokuslu returns from suspension –and Albion struggled in the North East with a lack of key figures missing in rare back-to-back league defeats under Corberan.

Corberan said: “I think the challenge more than mentally is physically – and we need to physically recover the energy we need to put in the pitch, because if you don’t play with 100 per cent energy in the games in the Championship it is difficult to get the win.

“So I think mentally we want to play the next game quick, physically we need to see who is able to play the next game quick.”

Striker Maja was handed his first Baggies start at the Stadium of Light having checked in as a free agent in the summer before building up his fitness and overcoming an ankle injury caused by a challenge in September.

But his full debut lasted just over half an hour and with fellow striker Brandon Thomas-Asante not able to play more than 30 minutes himself due to a hamstring concern, the head coach turned to young winger Tom Fellows.

Fellows, along with more senior colleagues Grady Diangana, John Swift and Jeremy Sarmiento, struggled to have any influence against the Black Cats, who were good value for their 2-1 win.

Thomas-Asante did emerge as a later sub to head in his sixth goal of the season – level with Swift as Albion’s leader in that department – from an excellent delivery from makeshift left winger Pipa, a right-back by trade playing in an alternate role.

It remains to be seen whether Thomas-Asante will be given the green light to play more minutes at rock-bottom Rotherham tomorrow, or whether Wallace is well enough for a cameo role from the bench.

But Spanish loanee Pipa, who played his first minutes in more than a month in the north east, is a versatile option Albion might have to look to in the coming weeks in a more unusual role than first expected.

Corberan said of his compatriot, who signed on loan from Ludogorets in Bulgaria on deadline day: “Pipa is a player we signed as a right-back but we know he can play left-back, right wing-back and left wing-back.

“He’s not natural to play as a winger, but when you don’t have more possibilities he is one player that has a level of versatility that can help the team in different circumstances.”