The latest twist in P aul McShane's journey through 2006 is an injury that could force him to miss West Bromwich Albion's match at home to Coventry City on Saturday.

The Republic of Ireland international defender sustained minor groin damage during Albion's match away to Barnsley on Sunday, an injury that came at the worst possible time.

Just as McShane was looking to establish himself as the partner of Curtis Davies in the Albion defence, he finds himself fighting injury at a time when Neil Clement and Chris Perry are looking to regain a first-team place.

Perry had missed the match against Barnsley, which Albion drew 1-1, through injury, while Clement is easing his way into the squad after recovering from a serious knee injury.

However, McShane and Davies looked good together during Albion's match at home to Derby County this month and a long-term partnership looked likely. It still does, providing that McShane can avoid injury.

"I really enjoy playing with Curtis and I can see why there is speculation concerning his future," McShane said. "He is a very good defender, comfortable on the ball, good in the air.

"Ideally, I'd love to have a central-defensive partner-ship with him, but I am not the only defender who wants to play in this team. There is competition for places now, which is good for the manager."

So far in 2006, McShane has been a Manchester United player, a loan player with Brighton & Hove Albion, and most latterly a permanent member of the Albion playing staff. He was signed by Bryan Robson but must now convince Tony Mowbray of his ability.

To cap a rollercoaster year, McShane made his international debut and was Ireland's man of the match against the Czech Republic this season.

By the standards of the opening 11 months, December has been pretty low-key for McShane. He was getting on with his job against Barnsley, formidably but without fuss, when injury struck.

"I got my first knock when I went up for a header at one of the corners," he said. "Someone caught my knee and I hyper-extended my hamstring.

"Then [Albion goalkeeper] Russell Hoult put the nail in the coffin when we collided with me. He caught me on the top of my leg near my bone and there's a studmark there with a bit of

bruising. The two knocks just took their toll but I don't want to lose my place now and, touch wood, I'll be OK."

McShane has no doubts that the club will secure promotion to the Premiership, despite the result against Barnsley that enabled Birmingham City, the clear leaders, to open up a ten-point gap between themselves and Albion.

"This league is tight and all the teams are capable of beating each other," he said. "That makes it tough but interesting. I do know, having spent virtually a few months here, that we are good enough for promotion.

"But it is not about the talk, it is about actually doing it on the pitch. We are better now and there is still a long way to go.

"The last two games have been a lot better and things are starting to look right. We are beginning to push on. Teams have their dips and we've had a bad dip in form. Hopefully we can push on and try to stay unbeaten for the rest of the season. It's frustrating to see us so low down in the table with the squad we've got but we can't get frustrated and lose our heads. We have to keep knuckling down and try to perform as best as we can.

"We need to find consistency and that's all down to working hard for each other against teams that are going to work hard against us. We need to match their work rate and then hope-fully our talent will take over because we've got some good players."

Leon McKenzie is ruled out for Coventry because of suspension. The utility player picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the 1-0 victory over Burnley last weekend and will serve a one-match ban.

Micky Adams, the Coventry manager, will be forced into a reshuffle as he aims to lead the Sky Blues towards their sixth successive game without loss. However, Marcus Hall is available after he served a one-match ban against Burnley.