West Bromwich Albion manager Bryan Robson has called on injured striker Nathan Ellington to rejoin the club's relegation battle and provide the goals they need to stay in the Premiership.
Ellington, who arrived at The Hawthorns in August last year for £3 million, has not featured since the 2-0 defeat by Liverpool nearly three weeks ago, having cited a 'bruised toe' as reason to miss three important league games.
His latest withdrawal came on Monday before Albion's disappointing 0-0 draw with Bolton Wanderers and his absence is clearly testing the patience of the club's management.
With everyone else in his squad showing commendable appetite for the challenge, Robson yesterday felt the need to gee up the striker who was brought from Wigan Athletic to ensure West Brom did not fall into another dog-fight at the bottom.
That hasn't happened. Ellington has scored just eight times in 32 appearances in all competitions and, with three games to go and a three-point deficit to make up on Portsmouth, Robson needs the Bradford-born forward to find the form that made him one of the hottest properties in the Championship when Wigan were promoted last season.
"You want everybody up for the fight and fighting for the cause," Robson said. "Nathan has now had a bruised toe for three weeks since the Liverpool game.
"I don't want to say too much about it. He has had a bruised toe for three weeks and on Monday, just before the game, he said he wasn't feeling right."
The manager's frustration is compounded by the fact his side have been carving out enough chances to win matches. Against Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Bolton, they could claim to have done enough to take all three points.
And he still considers the 25-year-old the man most likely to provide the finishing touch. "Along the way, some of the chances we have been creating we have got to start scoring, because we need wins; it's as simple as that. We have missed far too many over the last few games.
"Nathan is probably our best goalscorer. I allowed [Robert] Earnshaw to go because I had got Ellington and we need him up for it."
He could not, however, fault the rest of his squad and the way they have applied themselves to Albion's cause.
Although the stalemate with Bolton was something of a missed opportunity and the situation is probably as bad as at any time last year, when they only escaped relegation in the last few minutes of the season, the former England and Manchester United midfielder is certain that his team will struggle to the end.
"There is no way this set of players will throw in the towel unless it's mathematically impossible to stay up," he continued.
"They have proved that with their attitude in the last few games; they cannot do much more other than actually win one. The mood around the place is still pretty buoyant.
"The players know that they can go to the last game and anything is possible - that's what they keep believing at the moment." The odd goal from Ellington would only increase that conviction.
* A youthful Albion reserve side crashed 6-1 to Sunderland in Durham last night.
Rob Elvins gave the Baggies a 12th-minute lead when he sidefooted home Ben Pringle's cross, but things went rapidly downhill thereafter.
Kevin Smith equalised in the 22nd minute, then got his second goal just before half-time after Kevin Kyle had given Sunderland a 2-1 lead.
Kyle's header made it 4-1 just after the hour and a Rhys Darg own goal made it five before Smith completed his hat-trick in the 70th minute.