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Football: Hughes to make way for Dobie at Anfield.

Byline: Hyder Jawad Chief Football Writer

The knee injury that caused Lee Hughes to limp out of West Bromwich Albion's game against Southampton last Saturday is not as bad as first feared - but that might not be enough for the striker to keep his place in the team.

Hughes, who has not completed any of his three matches for Albion since re-joining the club from Coventry City last month, should make the squad for the trip to Liverpool on Saturday but is expected to watch the kick-off from the substitutes' bench.

Hughes, aged 26, has been below his best since making his pounds 2.5 million move to The Hawthorns and his place in the team is under threat when Albion go in search of their fourth successive victory.

Gary Megson, the Albion manager, believes that a lack of fitness is preventing Hughes from producing his best form and a rest could be the best option.

'Lee is still a bit sore,' Megson said. 'He took a knock and now the bruising has started to come out. The cut was not as bad as I first thought, which is good.

'He is still adjusting to life in the Premiership. He has not really done a pre-season and, because of that, he is behind everybody else at the club. He has not really got going just yet.

'It is something he has got to address and we need to help him. He has had a few setbacks fitness-wise while he was with Coventry.'

Hughes suffered a gash under a knee after a challenge by Paul Williams, who was later sent off for a second bookable offence and was replaced by Scott Dobie at half-time.

Dobie has looked sharper and is likely to partner Jason Roberts up front at Anfield on Saturday.

Derek McInnes, the Albion captain, is hoping to return to the squad for the trip to Newcastle United on October 5. The Scotland international had a minor knee operation on Friday and has been told to rest for a week.

McInnes has served a threematch suspension for being sentoff in the opening game of the season, away to Manchester United, and has begun his rehabilitation.

'The knee injury is something that Derek has had for a few years now,' Megson said. 'It flared up just before he was due to play for Scotland a couple of weeks ago.

Megson denied that the club insisted on the operation because the player was suspended. 'No, an operation is something that was needed anyway,' the Albion manager said.

McInnes is delighted that surgery revealed nothing more than floating cartilage and he will begin light training next week.

'It was good news on Friday in as much as it confirmed that there wasn't any serious problem with my knee,' McInnes said.

'The surgeon just went into the knee, gave it a little tidy up, and hopefully I'll start to feel the benefit of that.

'He just found a few little bits of rubbish that had got into the knee, but that's all washed out now.

'I'll be a week not doing very much, and then hopefully I'll be able to crack on quite quickly.

'The surgeon told me it'll be three to four weeks out, but I'll be looking to get back quicker than that if I can because it's been frustrating being stuck on the sidelines the last few weeks.'

McInnes faces a fight to win back his place in the first team. It is a coincidence, of course, but Albion lost their first three matches of the season with McInnes in the team and have won their three matches since he has been suspended.

'Derek will be as delighted as anybody with our victories,' McInnes said. 'He is pleased with the results and is itching to get back to playing.'

Megson is pleased with the form of Jason Koumas since the midfield player was signed from Tranmere Rovers last month.

'He has showed flashes of skill but, on Saturday, I think he was trying too hard. But in his first two starts, we have won both games.'

Albion play Blackburn Rovers at home on Monday September 28 and face a trip to Wigan Athletic in the Worthington Cup two days later. Megson suffered a similar fate of two games in three days last season and is far from happy with the situation.

Albion have sold their entire allocation of 2,648 tickets for the game at Anfield. Albion officials allowed supporters to camp overnight outside the East stand before the final 500 tickets went up for sale.

CAPTION(S):

Albion skipper Derek McInnes hopes to return to the team for the trip to Newcastle United on October 5, after a successful operation cleaned out the floating cartilage in his knee; Lee Hughes: hindered by a lack of fitness
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 17, 2002
Words:806
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