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.