Mowbray could ring the changes

WEST Brom manager Tony Mowbray could ring the changes for tonight's trip to Layer Road, which has been a graveyard for so many big-name visitors already this season.

By Carl Marston

WEST Brom manager Tony Mowbray could ring the changes for tonight's trip to Layer Road, which has been a graveyard for so many big-name visitors already this season.

Former Ipswich Town defender and coach Mowbray is concerned about the number of games his team is having to play at the moment - tonight's fixture has been brought forward four days, because the Baggies have an FA Cup fifth round tie against either Bristol City or Middlesbrough this weekend.

However, Mowbray has a big squad at his disposal, with the likes of goal-poacher Nathan Ellington and new signing Sherjill MacDonald (on loan from Dutch side AGOVV Apeldoorn) starting on the bench against Southampton last weekend.

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“We will assess the players in training and see what they are like, but I do think it is coming to that point where we've got to start thinking about trying to utilise the squad a little bit,” admitted Mowbray yesterday.

“Some players who have been on the outside of the starting line-up recently might get an opportunity. This is a squad. Everyone says how great it is - and now it is time to test it.

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“I thought there were signs, not just physically but also mentally, of tiredness against Southampton.

“It happens when you have to keep going back to the well for the same players, who in the last week have played three games in six days.

“Some of them went away on international duty, then played again at the weekend and have another game on Tuesday. Psychologically it is quite draining for them I think.

“Have we the strength in depth? Time will tell. Let's wait and see,” added Mowbray.

Winger Jonathan Greening is a definite absentee tonight. The former Manchester United and Middlesbrough left-footer serves the second of a two-match suspension, incurred for accumulating 10 bookings.

He also missed the 1-1 home draw against Southampton.

That draw with the Saints brought an end to a seven-game winning sequence at The Hawthorns, although Mowbray said: “We're happy with the point. Results elsewhere meant it turned out to be a decent point.”

The Baggies are the highest scorers in the Championship, with 58 goals from 32 league fixtures - the U's are second on 53 goals.

Senegalese striker Diomansy Kamara leads the way with 18 goals, 17 in the league, while veteran front-runner Kevin Phillips notched his 13th goal of the season with the equaliser against George Burley's Southampton.

Phillips was replaced by Ellington during the second-half. Mowbray explained: “Kevin (Phillips) had an extremely good game again, and worked extremely hard, but it's all about using the squad and utilising everyone.

“Nathan (Ellington) is chomping at the bit. He's ready to get going, and is telling me he's going to get goals.”

Midfielder Jason Koumas has netted seven goals, as has “The Duke” Ellington, who was a £3m signing from Wigan Athletic during the summer of 2005.

By contrast, Mowbray's men have the worst defensive record of any of the top 10 teams, although they have only conceded two goals in their last four outings.

A win tonight would see the Baggies leapfrog Midlands rivals Birmingham into the second automatic promotion slot. They have not lost in seven games, since a 3-1 defeat at Southend on New Year's Day, when former U's loanee Jamal Campbell-Ryce scored a brace for the Shrimpers.

This is the only game in the Championship this evening, so it's a great chance for one of these teams to steal a march on their closest rivals.

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