Geoff Horsfield admits that West Bromwich Albion's entire season could hinge on tomorrow night's crunch Hawthorns clash with Blackburn Rovers.

Having slipped back two places as a result of Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, Albion now have a quick chance to leapfrog back out of the bottom three by beating Blackburn.

And the Albion striker, set to be recalled by Bryan Robson to counter Blackburn's physical threat, sums up the determination in the Baggies camp to put their first defeat in five games behind them.

"Of course we can still do it," said Horsfield. "But how this season pans out depends on how quickly we get this result out of our system."

After feeling so low on Saturday night, Albion spirits were raised significantly by Southampton's 4-1 hammering at local rivals Pompey yesterday lunchtime. That has effectively ensured that the Baggies' last four games are all against teams who do not have much to play for.

Squeezed between their home matches with two teams now deemed safe, Blackburn and Pompey, are FA Cup finalists Arsenal and Manchester United, both of whom can be expected to have one eye on the Millennium Stadium.

"Everybody will be fighting like crazy to make sure we pull it off," said Horsfield, "starting with Blackburn and then Man United and Arsenal. We don't know what sides they (United and Arsenal) will put out with the FA Cup just around the corner.

"I'm still sure it will go right down to the wire. We've just got to make sure we go into that final game against

Portsmouth having given ourselves a chance."

As to the side Albion put out tomorrow night, Robson rates midfield man Kieran Richardson as having "got a chance" after failing a morning fitness test at Middlesbrough on his dead leg. And, having been given the chance

to rest a slight knee ligament problem at Tottenham in midweek, Horsfield is fairly fresh, having been held back until the final 11 minutes on Saturday.

While Horsfield looks nailed on to start, his Albion team-mate Richard Chaplow has another reason for being desperate to keep his shirt.

Chaplow was a boyhood fan of Rovers' great Lancashire rivals Burnley before playing for the Clarets, before joining Albion three months ago. And he is expecting to get the odd text message before from one or two of his Blackburnsupporting mates between now and tomorrow night.

"I know a few Rovers fans," he said. "And being a Burnley fan does give it a bit of added interest. Blackburn are a hard side. But, if I keep my place, I just need to focus on my game, no matter who it is against.

"I'm a West Brom player now and the rivalry won't affect me at all."

Having waited more than two months for his first start, Chaplow has made an instant impact, making Saturday's defeat all the harder to swallow, but he sums up the defiant mood in the Albion squad, insisting that it was a one-off.

"It was just one of those days," he said. "We tried to get forward and create chances. Unfortunately none went in, then they nicked one, then another and another and it seemed like a case of every shot they hit went in.

"The gaffer got his head together with his staff and come up with a new formation in the second half and it seemed to work. But the lads are disappointed at not getting at least a point, and we've just got to get our hopes up for the Blackburn game."