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Marcus Williams signs for Reading.

Having decided not to renew his contract at Scunthorpe United the player has joined the Royals on a three year contract.

Reading boss Brian McDermott has been quick to make plug the gap left by Ryan Bertrand as he prepares for next season.

Reading 1 West Brom 1

West Brom returned to the Madejski on Saturday and with both teams in great form and also considering the result of the recent FA Cup clash between the two you would have expected it to be a great game – and you’d have been right. It was non-stop action with both teams pushing hard to take maximum points. West Brom were looking to cement their place in the automatic promotion spots and Reading were hoping to add some more weight to their outside chance of gate-crashing the play-offs.

Jay Tabb was out for this one so Brynjar Gunnarsson came in to the middle of the park alongside Brian Howard and Gylf Sigurdsson, with Shane Long continuing to play up front on his own. Having scored in the opening few seconds the FA Cup game against West Brom the Reading fans were hoping for the same again as Reading carved out some early half-chances – then suddenly just after the 5 minute mark Shane Long set Jobi McAnuff free on the left and he motored to goal. I had this feeling that he might fluff it like he did at Anfield. He took his shot and it was saved by Carson! The ball fell to Kebe – surely the man of the moment would slot it away – blocked on the line! It then fell to our other man of the moment who made no mistake – a 15th goal of the season for Gylfi Sigurdsson – the Sig truly is on fire.

West Brom then came back an had a few efforts here and there, some of which drew good saves from Adam Federici, most notably from a Gabriel Tamas header. It was one of those games where although we were seeing a bit less of the ball we were making far better use of it, time and time again we were getting through the Baggies defence – Howard fluffed his lines and Sigurdsson saw the rebound cleared off the line. McAnuff then failed to score from another one on one situation – I don’t think one on ones are Jobi’s thing – which is a shame because he could have put us in a comfortable position. I can’t fault him for effort though (some people seem to think he is a bit lazy for some reason).

The first half came to a close and I was wishing we’d got the second goal – a second goal was certainly on offer and we’d not capitalised – do that for a whole game and you often get punished…

Into the second half and Kebe almost got through the Baggies defence but it didn’t really seem to be his day. Carson then saved from a Khizanishvili header – somebody needed to take their opportunity soon or surely West Brom would do something. To be fair they were seeing a lot of the ball and Adam Federici had had some work to do, but as yet they hadn’t had too many fantastic chances, surely a team at the top was always going to have the quality to pop up and get an equaliser if a good opportunity arose?

Then further proof that it wasn’t going to be Kebe’s day. Adam Federici launched a kick to the halfway line and Kebe was the only man in a Royals shirt up there – accompanied by two Baggies defenders. The Kebe of old would probably have just let the defenders clean up withour challenging them, but to his credit Kebe got stuck in and looked to be favourite despite having his shirt tugged around his neck. Surely a free-kick to Reading? Andy D’Urso hadn’t had a great game – in fact he’d been awful and it shouldn’t really have been a surprise to see a free kick given… to West Brom. I actually laughed, but I should have really – if he’d been able to get away from the defenders with the ball they’d never have caught him.

The BBC football show on Saturday then suggested that West Brom had a stone wall penalty shout from an Andy Griffin challenge, the only thing was that the move was flagged offside before the challenge anyway. Marks for observation? Zero. West Brom could however have had a penalty when the ball hit Matt Mills’ hand in the box. The BBC missed that one. It was probably ball to hand, but how many times have you seen those given – so really and truly a lucky escape. Apparently Khizanishvili then caught Ben Watson in the box, but he stayed on his feet – to be honest I never saw it. Marks for observation? Zero, but then I’m not a sports journalist who gets paid to put together a highlight reel for a national TV show so I think I can be forgiven for missing that one.

There are some things though that are surely unmissable. For example, imagine a player jumps over the advertising hoardings to get the ball and then throws the ball back into play whilst hurdling back over them. You don’t need to be a qualified referee or linesman to spot what’s gone wrong there. Foul throw. Unfortunately, Andy D’Urso missed it, and so did his plonker of a linesman. It’s not hard to guess what happened next – Reading concede just moments later – Tamas smashing in after Olsson headed onto the bar.

It’s one of those situations where on the one hand you can blame the team for not taking their opportunities to put the game beyond doubt but on the other you can say that if the officials had ‘spotted’ the obvious foul throw then that particular goal wouldn’t have occurred. The way I look at it is that West Brom might have gone on to score from a different situation anyway… but it’s still pretty annoying, especially when the goal comes 5 minutes before the end of the game. In the end 1-1 was a fair result, although both sides had late chances to win it. Miller’s chance to get clear being snuffed out well by Mills and Kebe failing to beat Carson when they met one on one. Dorrans then got brought down by Sigurdsson as he slipped through the midfield towards goal. If ever there was a ‘clever’ foul then that was it. Time and time again we praise our players for being so sporting, then we see opposition players come and make cynical challenges that they’re never going to win just to stop good opportunities developing (amongst other forms of ‘cheating’ like diving). At times like those I find myself wishing that some of our players would do the same if and when it needed to be done and that’s the first time in a long time I’ve seen one of our players do it and I’ve got to admit I was pleased to see it. I’m sure some will disagree. In amongst all that at some stage Simon Church had a one on one that he sent wide as well.

In the end, as I say, I think a draw was a fair result, although Reading will wonder how they didn’t win the game and West Brom will just be pleased to have got the equaliser. With Swansea and Leicester struggling a little bit maybe there is a chance we could still sneak into the play-offs despite having recently dropped 4 points – two from this game and two from our recent trip to the Riverside.

Personally, at the moment I’d say it’s going to elude us this year. I reckon we might be able to finish 7th or 8th – and that in itself would be a great achievement. But who knows? A dip in form might see us slip to mid-table obscurity or if fortune smiles on us we could make the top six. If we were to pick up a few more wins in the next few games and the results go our way it could suddenly start to look very interesting.

We’ll see.

Posting resumes…

Sorry about the recent silence on here. I was so gutted after the Villa game I couldn’t bring myself to do the write-up. We all know what happened there!

Then after that we had the Derby game which I have to say must have been the dullest 4-1 win I’ve ever been too even though Robbie Savage did end up in goal! Ivar Ingimarsson said in his Captain’s notes for the Bristol City game that they had tried not to get carried away against Derby’s ten men and just see the game out to save themselves for the next run of games. This was probably a sound strategy but it did make the game seem like a training match – but a great result nonetheless.

Bristol City was next, and we saw that one out with ease as well – winning the game 2-0 thanks to goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson. Again, I wasn’t hugely inspired to put up a match report so I decided I’d start again with QPR. This turned out to be another game with a red card for the opposition, and in the end the pressure told and we got the victory courtesy of another Sigurdsson spot kick.

The real talking point of this game turned out to be the Matt Mills incident. The way I saw it was that some of the abuse he was getting was a bit harsh – and let’s make no mistake it was abuse. I think there’s a big difference between showing your frustration and disappointment with a player’s decision making and giving him some constructive criticism and calling your player names and shouting insults at him for making mistakes. Equally, Mills was wrong to react the way he did (with the finger if you somehow missed all this). Personally I’m glad the whole thing has blown over.

I didn’t go to Boro or Leicester so not a lot to say regarding those – except well done Jimmy Kebe – what a run of form he’s in and what a player he could become if he keeps working as hard and playing to his strengths. The other obvious person to single out for praise is Sigurdsson – another cool penalty for him against Leicester last night puts us firmly in mid-table (or so you would think).

Anyway, I think what I will try to do is get someone to help out by doing the odd match report – particularly the away games as I’m probably not going to go to many more this season (if any). If you fancy contributing let me know.

Despite almost a month of silence the site is still getting a few hits each day so I’ll try to ensure I don’t drop the ball again – so you can expect a match report on here after the West Brom game.

And the nominees are…

Having only just taken over as permanent manager at the Madejski, Brian McDermott now finds himself nominated for Manager of the Month for February.

Last month we beat Doncaster, Plymouth, Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday in the league – only losing to Blackpool away. Meanwhile, in the Cup, we held West Brom to a draw at home and then beat them after extra time at the Hawthorns to reach the quarter finals for the first time since 1927. We failed to score only at Blackpool – scoring 17 goals in the other 6 fixtures. We currently lead the form table and have pulled ourselves out of the relegation zone as well.

To be honest the award can sometimes be a curse, but there is no doubt that Brian would be a deserving winner – although he’s up against some strong competition.

The nominees are:

Chris Coleman – Coventry
Nigel Pearson – Leicester
Paulo Sousa – Swansea
Brian McDermott – Reading

Meanwhile, having questioned (or rather worried about) Simon Church’s goal scoring capabilities just a short while back, the striker netted four goals last month – the best coming against Sheffield Wednesday. The striker has had quite a month after a period when some (including myself) began to question his ability – he also represented Wales once again in their international friendly this evening.

The nominess for the player of the month are:

Andy Carroll – Newcastle
Dorus De Vries – Swansea
Paul Gallagher – Leicester
Simon Church – Reading

These two nominations just go to show what a turn around it’s been in Berkshire since the departure of Brendan Rodgers. Whether McDermott gets the award or not there is no doubt that he has done a remarkable job in a very short time. Under his stewardship we have seen players like Church, Kebe, Long and Mills really showing what they are all about. Elsewhere McDermott deserves a great deal of credit for bringing in Andy Griffin – he’s given us real steel and character at the back. Reading now play with a lot more heart and desire than we did prior to Christmas – it just goes to show what a difference that can make to performances and to results.

Meanwhile, the completely unofficial Bad-Boy of the Month award has already been decided – by me – and it goes to Jobi McAnuff.

Having had a little spat with a fan up at Blackpool over being offside, he then went on to get himself sent off up at the Hawthorns after the final whistle. Not a month to remember for the talented midfielder – we can only hope that we won’t suffer too much from his absence in the coming games. 5-0 against Sheffield Wednesday might seem to suggest that we will do alright without him – though it’s a particular shame that we won’t have him available for the clash with Villa on Sunday.

Having said all that, I’ve just noticed that Jobi has forced his way into the Actim Stats Top 100 so that’s something. You may recall last month I said that we had nobody in the top 100? Well now there are two – Adam Federici now sits in 80th position.

Reading 5 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Having knocked West Bromwich Albion out of the FA Cup in extra time in midweek I was a little bit worried about this fixture. This match was so important to both sides and I couldn’t help but wonder if the Cup game would leave its mark on this game and see the Royals being overcome by a fresher opponent.

Firstly, we had some team issues. Matt Mills had sustained a knock in the Cup game at the Hawthorns, and was replaced by Zurab Khizanishvili. After the game Jobi McAnuff had received a red card and he was replaced by Grzegorz Rasiak. Brian McDermott had then opted to go back to 442 with Sigurdsson on the left, Kebe on the right and Tabb and Howard in the centre. In some ways this surprised me, it seemed like perhaps we might end up being a little light-weight in midfield, and as you may have gathered I am not Rasiak’s biggest fan as I prefer the mobility and work-rate of players like Long and Church. However, Rasiak tends to grab goals fairly regularly so I was hopeful that McDermott might be proved right in his team selection.

The game kicked off and in the early stages of the game we were dominant although we didn’t test the ‘keeper too much. At the other end Wednesday managed to carve out a couple of shots on goal, but nothing to worry Adam Federici too much (and fortunately no repeat of his clanger up in the Midlands). At this point my early observations were that we looked comfortable at the back and dominant on the ball, the midfield was doing well and didn’t look as light-weight as I had feared. Having said that Rasiak was annoying me a little. He was losing his battles in the air, not closing anything down and basically doing all the things that I tend to dislike him for.

However, as the game progressed Rasiak came into his own more and more, winning headers, making clever flick-ons, doing a bit of tracking back and holding things up pretty well. The whole set up seemed to be working well and chances were being created at a steady pace- all that was needed was a goal. I hoped Brian Howard might pop up with the goal – he was getting no end of abuse from the away end. In amongst all this there was an early worry about Gylfi Sigurdsson as he went down by the South East corner flag. It looked like perhaps he might be done for the day but after some treatment he re-entered the fray.

We were coming towards the end of the half, and despite creating numerous opportunities there was no goal. Although we’d created chances, the fact that my attention had been distracted by the topless fat bloke in the away end was disappointing – we needed to hit Wednesday before they went in an got a their arses kicked in the dressing room. As the half cam to an end Jay Tabb managed to get the ball to Jimmy Kebe who skipped towards goal and had a pop at goal. The ball took a wicked deflection that completely wrong-footed Owls’ ‘keeper Lee Grant and bobbled just past his left glove as he flapped to try and keep the ball out. Jimmy Kebe again! Now I’m a bit of a closet Jimmy Kebe fan, but Mick Gooding had said that the Malian had looked shattered in the later stages of our FA Cup victory in midweek and I had thought perhaps in a relegation scrap like this McDermott might decide to give him a break. But to be fair he’s been in such fantastic form it would have been extremely harsh on him and once again, thanks to Kebe, it looked like we’d be heading into the half-time break a goal up.

Then on the 45 minute mark, Sigurdsson set up Simon Church whose shot was saved only to fall to Rasiak who slotted the ball away to make it 2-0 -what a great way to end the half. Outside at half-time I was obviously pleased but I was also keen to see Reading come out and keep the pressure on Wednesday and hopefully get another goal to drain away any hopes of a comeback. All it would take was an early goal for the Owls and the game would suddenly be back in the balance.

Two minutes into the second half and Sigurdsson had already tested the goalkeeper with a free-kick – although it has to be said some of our efforts from set-pieces yesterday were poor, even including some of those taken by the Sig. Then on 52 minutes, Rasiak provided a deft flick for Church, who moved towards goal then turned back inside to fire an absolute blinder which he curled in from 25 yards – the ball crashing in off the post. I don’t know what it looked like from elsewhere in the stadium, but from down on the halfway line I was right behind it as it swerved in – an outstanding strike.

More goals looked to be on offer in this game. Then on 65 minutes Kebe again unleashed his pace on the Wednesday defence to provide a second goal for Rasiak – again a poacher’s goal from close range. I was delighted – for both of them. On 70 minutes Brian McDermott decided to withdraw Simon Church and give Hal Robson-Kanu another outing up front.

Then just a minute later the Wednesday centre backs suffered a calamitous collision which allowed Jimmy Kebe to race away with the ball. With Rasiak in close attendance Kebe decided to go it alone and smashed the ball decisively into the roof of the net to send the home fans into raptures. Five goals to nil now and even the fat topless Wednesday fan was giving us a clap now. He was a bit of an attention-seeker to be fair, but I’d rather have a bit of banter with someone like that than a load of foul-mouthed teenagers like the lot from Barnsley that tried to climb over the fence after the game. Fair play to him for managing 10 sit-ups as well – I gave him a little clap for that – I’m surprised he didn’t have a heart attack!

But back to the game and to a real standing ovation – having just scored his second Jimmy Kebe was replaced by James Henry and the appreciation of the home fans poured out from every stand, block and row. Henry it must be said did fairly little in the time he had – which was a shame. Marek Matejovsky also came on for Sigurdsson with just over ten minutes remaining but unfortunately I hardly saw him touch the ball. There was however time for some showboating from Rasiak, as he juggled the ball in the opposition half – I’d seen him try this once or twice before, only to make a complete tit of himself by losing the ball – but this time it came off to the obvious delight of the home fans. Finally, Andy Griffin suffered a bit of a knock towards the end of the game. He had been a rock once again but was looking sore and at 5-0 up with all three substitutions made Brian McDermott decided to withdraw him without replacement.

The final whistle blew and the Royals moved 4 points above Sheffield Wednesday and the relegation zone – a strong performance which left Owls’ boss Alan Irvine understandably disillusioned.

West Brom 2 Reading 3 AET

Wow. It’s been 83 years since Reading made it to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup and what a way to do it.

Having drawn the first game 2-2 I have to say I did wonder if West Brom might be too strong for us at home, and having seen us put in a dodgy display at Blackpool I was feeling a lot less confident about this game than I might otherwise have been.

Looking at the starting line up I can’t say that I was hugely surprised to see Jem Karacan dropped – he has been quiet verging on poor recently. I have to admit I thought Brian McDermott might stick with him, but I think leaving him out could be just what he needs before a busy period of league games, not to mention our Quarter Final at home to Aston Villa.

So with no Jem Karacan and Bryn Gunnarsson injured, the midfield five consisted of Jimmy Kebe, Jay Tabb, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Brian Howard and Jobi McAnuff. With Long still out suspended Simon Church continued up front, and at the the back Ivar Ingimarsson replaced the Cup-tied Zurab Khizanishvili. For the first time since Brian McDermott came to power I looked at the line-up and questioned it a little. Having said that, Brian Howard has been decent recently and Jay Tabb is a battler and deserved the chance to show what he is about. Also moving Gylfi Sigurdsson in to the centre of a five-man midfield as opposed to a four-man midfield ought to reap greater rewards. Perhaps Brian McDermott had got it right after all.

After just 6 minutes, I thought perhaps he’d got it wrong – we were one nil down to a Robert Koren goal (his second of the tie). The Baggies had peppered our goal, Federici saving from Bednar and Ryan Bertrand’s clearing off the line from Luke Moore only for the ball to fall nicely for Koren to smash home. But then just minutes later Jimmy Kebe made it 1-1 from similar circumstances as Carson saved a shot from Sigurdsson only for the ball to fall to our Malian winger. From then the game suddenly became end to end action with Matt Mills missing a glorious opportunity from a corner and Bednar failing to connect properly at the other end – surely this couldn’t last all night? It didn’t.

The game settled for a while, and it sounded like we had good shape and West Brom were being frustrated. The only real effort of any note was towards the end of the half – a well-struck Ivar Ingimarsson drive from 35 yards out which he couldn’t keep on target. In addition Roman Bednar was replaced by Chris Wood in an early change for the Baggies. At half-time the tie was nicely poised.

Unfortunately, the second half started as badly as the first. This time it was a speculative effort from Koren that went through the legs of Federici as he went down to claim it – what a howler! Perhaps this was to be West Brom’s night after all, or perhaps we would nick an equalise at the end just as they had done at the Madejski?

We had a few chances here and there, but when Matt Mills went off injured to be replaced by Alex Pearce I started to worry. Would Luke Moore capitalise on Pearce’s lack of pace? Fortunately, soon after Pearce’s introduction, Roberto Di Matteo decided to withdraw Moore and put on Marek Cech in an effort to close the tie out. As the game came to a close we had a couple more half chances, and Jimmy Kebe’s touch let him down again – he was having a rough night after his equaliser, perhaps it was time to sub him? Why wasn’t McDermott freshening things up? Was he gambling on getting the equaliser and keeping the options for later – a risky strategy I thought to myself.

With a good few minutes to go Adam Federici came up for a corner, determined to make up for his mistake by grabbing an equaliser, but unlike that memorable night against Cardiff, it wasn’t to be. The ball fell to Andy Griffin whose shot was saved, fortunately Ryan Bertrand was there to cover from the ensuing punt down field from Federici’s opposite number Scott Carson.

So into added time, and by now I thought West Brom would see it out. Not so! Gianni Zuiverloon made a mistake, just as he had done in the first tie, and Jimmy Kebe capitalised, just as he had done in the first tie – racing down the wing to set up Brian Howard for an unlikely late equaliser. Extra time.

Brian McDermott still had two changes to make, having kept the faith with his players during the 90. Indeed, he made now changes at the start of extra time. It paid off. One of the men who might have gone off, having put in a great shift, was Simon Church – the ball fell to him and he played it to Sigurdsson. Go on I thought, show your class, make it happen! And he certainly did – with a swerving shot into the top corner. What a goal. Worthy of winning any tie.

Amazingly Reading were pushing for more, with Jimmy Kebe messing up a couple of chances – surely now it was time to sub him? But the change was Simon Church going off to make way for Hal Robson-Kanu, who did well. As we saw the game out to it’s conclusion, Brian McDermott ran the clock down a little further by replacing Jay Tabb for James Henry and not long after the final whistle went. Reading were through.

Unfortunately, after the game Jobi McAnuff went up to Mulumbu to shake his hand, and Mulumbu (who you’ll remember was sent off at the Madejski) kicked the ball at him – McAnuff reacted and was sent off. With Long still out suspended for Sheffield Wednesday’s visit on Saturday we could really have done without this. In addition the stewards seemed intent on preventing the Reading players from celebrating with the travelling fans. A sad end to a great night.

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