West Bromwich Albion's hopes of avoiding relegation straight back to the Championship suffered a setback today, when it was confirmed that Ishmael Miller will miss the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage.
The 21-year-old striker suffered the injury in a collision with Portsmouth goalkeeper David James during Sunday's 1-1 draw, and manager Tony Mowbray revealed that it was more serious than first thought.
"It is a blow to us because, while Ishmael is only 21, he is a threat to most teams he plays against with his size, his power and his strength," Mowbray said. "It put teams on the back foot."
Mowbray absolved James of any blame for the injury. "It was just a collision. He went for the ball with David James and they collided together. It was one of those things."
Mowbray will now look to bring in a new striker on loan in the January transfer window, but admits finding a replacement of Miller's quality will be difficult for the league's bottom side. "We are making enquiries but it is very difficult to bring in a Premier League quality striker who is going to score you lots of goals on that (loan) basis," he said.
West Brom have recently been playing with one up front, and Mowbray must now decide whether to hand the role to Czech international Roman Bednar or to Luke Moore for Saturday's match at fellow strugglers Sunderland.
The Baggies were promoted to the Premier League as winners of the Championship in May. They have since won plaudits for playing an attractive style of football, but have so far struggled to pick up the points they need to survive in the top flight.
With only three wins and three draws from 16 matches, they are four points adrift of Newcastle United, the side currently occupying 17th place in the table, the last survival spot.