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Football: Strike helps Ellington rekindle Albion spirits; COCA-COLA CHAMPIONSHIP.

Byline: By Hyder Jawad

It was one small step for West Bromwich Albion but one giant leap for Nathan Ellington.

His goal, that secured a victory over Cardiff City on Tuesday night, did more than merely ensure that Albion rose to second place in the Coca-Cola Championship: it gave him a confidence-boost that no money could buy.

It was a special goal, too - a dipping, long-range shot - and one that will live long in the memory.

Ellington spent all of January hoping for a move to Wigan Athletic. Personal issues emphasised his need to leave The Hawthorns. The problem was that Wigan did not meet Albion's valuation of the striker and that Ellington remained with the club.

He has barely played in this calendar year but he showed, in the 66th minute against Cardiff, his ability to produce the unorthodox. It was a goal that had more to commend it than the Albion performance.

In some respects, only something special like this could win a match like that.

Paul Robinson, Albion's captain for the evening in the absence of Curtis Dav-ies, says that Ellington's intervention will mean more than three points in their bid for promotion.

"That's a big goal for Nathan Ellington," Robinson said. "The lads are delighted for him. He has had a few problems and the lads are trying to lift his spirits and bring his confidence back.

"If he keeps scoring goals like that, then his confidence will soon come back. Nathan has done that in his career before and, if he can get back to the form he used to show, then it is great news for us. He's getting his head down and working hard."

It is significant that the Albion players, not to mention the supporters, worked hard at making Ellington feel wanted and important. It could easily have worked the other way, but there is such a feeling of harmony at The Hawthorns that Ellington was always going to be welcomed back into the fold.

Team spirit is everything to Albion. It was lacking during the month between the end of the Bryan Robson era and the beginning of the Tony Mowbray era, but it is now evident and has helped to inspire a brilliant run of form.

Albion are now seen by some observers as likely champions of the division, which is a far cry from the uncertainty of November.

"The way we're playing at the moment means we're full of confidence," Robinson said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game and we had to concentrate.

"The games have been coming thick and fast and it's nice to have a day off now but we were mentally strong and got three points.

"We can't worry about any other teams, we've just got to focus on ourselves and try to keep winning. It shows our team spirit because we keep fighting and working together as a team."

Mowbray has warned potential buyers they can expect to pay the appropriate fee for Ellington.

The player is not responding well to being apart from his family, who have remained in the North West, even though he has been with Albion since 2005.

"Nathan Ellington is a nice lad and not a cold type of guy, so I was compassionate to the reasoning behind his wish to leave," Mowbray said.

"He is searching for a bit of focus and serenity in his life and feels he will get that being closer to his family and Wigan did come in for him, but the money they offered was not enough.

"Nathan is a prize asset at this club and if he is to leave, the price has to be right."

CAPTION(S):

"He is searching for a bit of focus and serenity in his life," says Tony Mowbray, who has welcomed Nathan Ellington back into the fold at The Hawthorns
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 22, 2007
Words:647
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