West Bromwich Albion 3 - Reading 1
Resurgent Baggies bombard Royals
Albion returned to winning ways, with what was ultimately, a comfortable victory against Reading at The Hawthorns. Defeat for Newcastle United at Nottingham Forest in the late kick-off, means that we top the table on goals scored.
There were two changes as we switched to 4-4-2. Gonzalo Jara was moved to centre back in place of Abdoulaye Meite, allowing striker Luke Moore to return. Jerome Thomas, back from suspension, was a straight replacement for the injured Chris Brunt.
Albion suffered a double blow as early as the 7th minute. Roman Bednar went down injured with a back problem and was stretchered off and replaced by Chris Wood. Almost immediately the visitors were awarded a free kick and when Howard curled the ball in, centre half Mills, who I suspect would have been marked by the absent Bednar, raced in to head home from close range. Things could have been worse just minutes later, when McAnuff volleyed over from the edge of the six yard box. The referee, Mr Taylor, made the first of a series of blunders just before the quarter-hour mark when, after Luke Moore was chopped down a yard inside the box, he awarded a free kick outside the area! Graham Dorrans found Jerome Thomas with a super crossfield pass, but after his shot was tipped around the post by Federici, a goal kick was awarded! The next error, in the 30th minute, when Reading were awarded a corner after a shot went directly out of play, worked in our favour. A Luke Moore clearance from the flag kick was helped on to McAnuff, but when Graham Dorrans ran him down, he hit a wayward back pass which was intercepted by Jerome Thomas, who chipped the keeper, raced through and despite a despairing challenge from ex. Baggie Cummings, held on to run the ball over the line. We were much improved for the rest of the half, after Thomas switched from right to left wing, but went in at the break all square.
Albion came desperately close to netting when, from a Joe Mattock cross, Chris Wood fired a powerful volley, only for Federici to make a remarkable one-handed save. Federici was in action again to block a Luke Moore shot, but when the rebound fell to Cech, he wastefully fired over the bar. A glorious move involving Graham Dorrans and Jerome Thomas set up Cech, but the keeper was quickly off his line to smother the shot. The Baggies got the goal they deserved in the 65th minute and Chris Wood was the unlikely provider. He collected the ball inside the Albion half, sidestepped a challenge and freed Jerome Thomas wide left. The winger cut inside, using his speed and strength to keep ahead of the defence, before calmly sidefooting under Federici. We needed another goal to make the game safe and when Gianni Zuiverloon fed Marek Cech and the Slovakian delicately chipped for the top corner it looked there, until Federici flung himself to his right to tip over. In the 87th minute we could at last relax. Graham Dorrans hit an inswinging cross and the combined efforts of keeper and defender could only clear to the edge of the area. As the ball dropped, Youssouf Mulumbu took time to position himself perfectly, before volleying into the vacant net. Anyone who thought that was that was wrong. Graham Dorrans collected the ball in our half, took one pace over the halfway line and launched an audacious lob which had Federici back-pedalling furiously before flinging an arm backwards to tip over.
Jerome Thomas was quiet before bursting into life with a goal on the half-hour, but henceforth he was the star man. How many more points might we have if he hadn?t picked up that unnecessary suspension? Over ninety minutes Gonzalo Jara was our most impressive player. In what could prove his best position, he showed good defensive covering and fine distribution. I was impressed with the mature showing from seventeen year old Chris Wood, who was unlucky not to add to his goal tally. Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu were particularly prominent after the break, what a goal that would have been from the Scotsman! For the Royals, Federici was an erratic genius; three particularly impressive saves prevented us doubling our score. The referee made some appalling decisions, which fortunately didn?t affect the result.
Seldom has the clich? ?you have to earn the right to play? been more appropriate. Reading were organised from the kick-off, gave us no time on the ball and showed some enterprise up front. However, once we scored, there was only one side in it and we gave our best second half performance at The Hawthorns this season. In any division, but particularly the Championship, lesser sides will raise their game against the league leaders. As fans, we must guard against the tendency, which we?ve seen at the likes of Man U and Arsenal, to expect to stroll to victory in every game.
Prior to today?s match, Albion were undefeated in seven home league games against Reading, conceding only two goals. The most recent game, on Saturday 22nd November 2003, finished goalless, but we won all the previous six, scoring thirteen times in all. Although we suffered two defeats in the late nineteen-eighties, four consecutive pre-war victories mean that, including today?s match, we?ve won eleven times in fourteen Hawthorns encounters, with a goal difference of 29-9. The most exciting clash was probably the first, on Saturday 21st January 1928, when, following an own goal, free scoring Jimmy Cookson netted four times in a 5-3 triumph.
ALBION FORMRATE: GOOD
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: JEROME THOMAS
Albion and Newcastle United, with 24 points from 12 games, are four points clear of Cardiff and Middlesbrough, with Blackpool, Preston and Forest a point further behind.
Cliche overdrive coming up. It was a game of two arves Brian and I'm over the moon we won but I might have been as sick as a parrot after a shocker of a first half which could have seen us going in 4-0 down.
We were shocking. Atrocious. Couldn't pass a ball to each other, clueless and hopeless. Couldnt get into gear at all or out of training ground pace and effort.
We lost Bednar in the first couple of minutes. He was clattered by two midfielders from the kick off and then went down like a sack of spuds clutching his back with nobody anywhere near him a minute later. Stewards half time said he had been taken to hospital in an ambulance. Hope he's OK.
Then Reading took the lead with a lovely cross from the left headed home with ease. It was whipped into the six yard box and Carson must take the blame again for not commanding his territory again. A keeper's got to come for those.
Reading were neat and tidy without ever being Barcelona (thank God) and missed three other golden chances to increase their lead.
With a huge slice of luck, Thomas (who had been truly lazy and dreadful on the right) chased a dreadful hash by the defence on the half way line, lobbed the goalkeeper and then raced for goal with two defenders chasing him. One caught him up but he had enough purchase on the ball to plant it in the empty net. A lucky one a piece.
Bizarrely, he then swapped over with Cech playing right and had a pretty good end to the half, whipping in some good crosses.
Second half the fortunes were competely reversed. We got the ball down and passed with aplomb to a striped shirt instead of hopeless hoofing, scored twice, tested their excellent goalkeeper on numerous occasions and missed a number of sitters even when we beat him, the funniest when Moore clattered the bar with the whole goal to aim at and then Cech went one better with the rebound, steadying himself with the defence and keeper stranded before planting the ball half way up the Brummie Road stand!
If Thomas was hopeless on the right, he continued to be a tricky revelation on the left and finally got his rewards when Wood (what a centre midfielder!) found him with a beautiful ball from the centre circle. BTW our ex full backs are sh@!te.
The third finally came when Mulumbu fired home after the keeper fisted a cross clear. Good finish rather than his fault and he had already pulled off three stunning saves from Dorrans, Cech and somebody (?) who hit a corker of a bicycle kick that he miraculaously blocked.
All in all, glad of the three points but make no mistake now - we are a championship side playing championship football.
Quick perspective on the game to contribute/echo the thoughts of others.
We were totally awful, and I mean abysmal, for the first 20-30 minutes and we could easily have been 2 or 3 down.
We were lumping it aimlessly, nobody seemed capable of playing a 10 yard pass or controlling one and it was a struggle to see how we'd get into the game Fortunately for us we were given the opportunity after good pressure, a poor back pass, suicidal goal keeping and Thomas being able to win a 50 yard sprint. Incidentally it was the only thing he did in the first 30 minutes or so, as others have said.
I don't know if it was tactical genius but for the remainder of the half and the rest of game following the goal Thomas went on the left and our centre backs stopped hitting everything long.
It worked. Thomas looked a world beater, Dorrans began to shine and Mulumbu got back to basics and started playing well.
We created chance after chance and the only worry was whether it was going to be one of the days until JT got a second thanks to a great ball from Woods and his pace and composure.
In the end, again without playing anything like as fluidly as we'd like or being in control of possession like we are used to, we overcame them with bits of individual skill and ability where it mattered.
I still don't think we are playing like a cohesive side, all singing from the same hymn sheet and playing to a system but we are getting results most of the time, reflective more of the quality of our opposition in this division I believe.
It was great to see Tex get some minutes. He is so much better a footballer than Reid it is laughable - he kept the ball, beat players for fun and created chances for himself and others - he should probably have scored in fact. Hopefully that will remind RDM that he is a real weapon at this level and needs more minutes.
Why is it when we have a break for International games we always resume with players who appear not to have played with each other for at least a year? Yesterday was again no exception as it took us well over 5 minutes to set foot into Readings half, & in which time we conceded a goal!
No one it seemed could string 2 passes together, our central midfield was being cut open too easily, Dorrans in particular looked a bit lost & did not contribute much in the opening 20 minutes, leaving Mulumbo to do the Lions share.
During the opening 25 minutes or so our left side defence was awful, why we paid over a million quid for Mattock is beyond me (bring back Robbo)! Never thought I would ever resort to stating that!
Olsson had his worst ever game in an Albion shirt, I cannot recall 1 single contested header that he won throughout the game, his passing was at best awful, in fact I would say he played as badly, or even worse than either Barnett & Martis - & they both got slaughtered!
Carson really needs to get a grip, his decision making is very poor & his kicking was at best awful & at worst totally abysmal.
Eventually after 20 minutes Thomas & Cech swapped sides, it was only then did Thomas begin to play.
Young Chris Wood had a great chance to score from a superb ball from Jara which Wood did brilliantly to control but lacked composure to blast into row Z.
Second half we began to play better consistent football & should really have had a hatful of goals all but for some fantastic saves & some fantastic misses!
Dorrans at last began to impress himself on the game & when Teixeira came on we really began to get at them. Tex made a big difference causing their defence many problems ? and he does know how to win free kicks!
Our 2nd goal was superb & Chris Wood became provider with a brilliant defence splitting pass for Thomas to score.
Mulumbo capped another terrific all action performance with a spectacular goal and Dorrans almost made it 4 with a brilliant effort from just inside the Reading half, spotting their ?keeper off his line, he sent a great dipping shot that had goal all over it but somehow the ?keeper finger tipped over the bar.
So we managed to turn this round to a convincing win & return to the top of the table. We are a Championship side at best in what is a quality lacking league that is proving to be light years away from Premier league standard. If we do manage to go up again we need at least a new defence & a proven goalscorer ? or at least one with the composure to score.
So meanwhile we enjoy the ride while it lasts!
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