PREVIEW: Millwall vs. West Bromwich Albion

NEW signing Mason Bennett and midfielder Ryan Leonard should be in contention for Sunday’s Championship clash with West Brom at The Den.

Bennett’s last start was on November 27 when he injured his ankle playing for Derby against Preston.

Leonard (above) hasn’t played since he damaged knee ligaments in the first half of the 2-1 win over Leeds on October 5.

Leonard tore the same lateral knee ligament in training in December that put him out for another two months.

But both players were set for a full week’s training ahead of the clash with Slaven Bilic’s table-topping Baggies.

“There will be nothing to stop them being involved other than me thinking they might not be at their maximum, or close enough to their maximum,” Lions boss Gary Rowett said.

“They’ve both had different rehabs for different injuries but not dissimilar timescales. Ideally sometimes you’d give them two or three under-23 games but my argument would be we don’t really have the time to do that.

“The months are running down. We don’t want to spend another month getting them fit and then having only six weeks, two months left of the season.

“I don’t think either of them will be in a position to start, but they’ll both be available and it’s down then to me to see whether it’s worth using them over someone who’s properly fit.

“If I think they’ll give us a slightly different option then I’ll use them.”

Rowett explained where Bennett can be a threat and what he offers that is different to what is already in the squad.

“He can play anywhere down the middle,” Rowett said, “he can play as a 10, a 9, he can play off the left or right. I think he’s probably more effective coming off the left because he’s not the type of player that’s naturally jinky or tricky, he’s more direct. Sometimes when a player’s more direct it’s good to give them the opportunity to go outside or cut inside on to their favourite foot.

“He’s a dangerous player, you only have to watch clips of him at this best last season. In the play-off final he was very, very good as a 9. He’s just different to what we’ve got.

“It’s very difficult for us to be able to bring in someone from the top end of the Championship who’s scored fifteen to 20 goals consistently, because we haven’t got that type of finance.

“We’ve got to try and find players that we can mould and help shape them into something more threatening for us.

“We hadn’t got that raw pace and power. We had lots of other good options, but not that, so I thought it was worth the risk, really.

“And it is a bit of a risk because he’s not quite fully fit yet. We need to keep him fit, which is a big thing for Mason, and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Millwall are unbeaten against West Brom this season, drawing 1-1 in the league and winning 2-1 in the first round of the EFL Cup, both games at the Hawthorns last August.

West Brom have lost the fewest number of games in the Championship this season (four) but three of them have come in a run of just one win in their last eight games.

That came last Saturday as they defeated bottom side Luton 2-0 at home.

Possible Millwall starting XI: Bialkowski; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, M Wallace; J Wallace, Molumby, Williams, Mahoney; Bradshaw, Smith.

Match odds: Millwall 9/5 Draw 12/5 West Brom 7/5

Last meeting: EFL Cup first round (October 13, 2019): West Brom 1-2 Millwall (Austin 9; Bradshaw 28, O’Brien 55).

Image: Millwall FC 

John Kelly