West Brom manager Gary Megson refuses to accept his side have secured a return to the Barclaycard Premiership despite a last-gasp 1-0 win over promotion rivals Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
The Baggies crushed Sunderland’s challenge for an automatic promotion place with a goal from Jason Koumas in injury time.
Mick McCarthy’s side, unbeaten at home since the first game of the season, battered their rivals but rarely threatened to break down a resolute defence superbly organised by skipper Sean Gregan.
Albion increased their lead over third-placed Sunderland to 12 points but Megson refuses to accept his side have made an immediate return to the Premiership.
“We are not home and dry but we are near,”said said Megson.
“We need another four points and this is a fantastic result for us given the circumstances.
“We are only the second team to get a result here this season. We tried to limit Sunderland to not too many chances and we did that.
“Everything about the club at the moment is First Division but today has been a fantastic result and we have to make sure we hold ourselves together.
“The timing of the goal could not have been better, it certainly wasn’t planned.
“It was fantastic for us that the ball went to a young lad like Lloyd Dyer who has kept his head and not panicked after beating two players and given the ball to Jason.”
Koumas, on for the injured Darren Moore in the 29th minute, sent the Albion bench and supporters into raptures and unbelievable scenes of celebrations.
Defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for the Black Cats who are now resigned to concentrating on a play-off place.
They lacked a cutting edge however, and despite all their possession and patient build-up, failed to seriously test goalkeeper Russell Hoult.
Skipper George McCartney was carried off after just six minutes with a knee injury that required six stitches but Sunderland’s problems were not at the back, such was their opponents’ desire to shut up shop.
Julio Arca was the architect of Sunderland’s attacking ideas but for all the huff and puff, near misses from Tommy Smith and substitute Kevin Kyle and a firm last-minute effort from Phil Babb raised hopes of a breakthrough.
Albion squandered the best chance of the match in the 37th minute. Scott Dobie raced clear with the home defence appealing in vain for offside but, with only goalkeeper Mart Poom to beat, the Scotland international failed to hit the target.
A disappointed McCarthy felt his side had been mugged but was confident they would pick themselves up for difficult away games at Crystal Palace (Wednesday) and Wigan Athletic (Saturday).
“West Brom will claim it was a job well done, but it should not have happened,” said McCarthy.
“We now have to make sure we are in the play-offs and people should remember that is an achievement in itself.
“We are angry and upset. If we had been well beaten and conceded a great goal then fair enough, but yes we feel as though we have mugged.
“I knew they would be defensive but not as much as that. I have to admire my players for their efforts in trying to win the game. They have responded all season and they will do the same again.”