Reading FC Match Report: 2022/2023 Season - Championship
READING 0 WEST BROM 2
West Brom: M Phillips (25), T Gardner-Hickman (72)
Rejuvenated by the appointment of interim manager Richard Beale following the sacking of manager Steve Bruce at the beginning of the week, the Baggies produced a perfect away performance to lift themselves out of the bottom three with only their second victory of the season. Royals' fans will be disappointed with the result, but Albion were sharp and focussed from the kick off, playing with an intensity in the first quarter of the match which put Reading on the back foot and produced the opening goal after twenty-five minutes. A sweeping cross field pass by Gardner-Hickman found Phillips wide on the right who shrugged off a feeble challenge by an isolated Guinness-Walker, who overall played well, to beat Bouzanis at the near post. The level of communication between the Albion players when defending was evidence of a team immediately benefitting from the fresh and positive influence of an interim manager.
Finding themselves a goal down, Reading eased their way back into the game but ‘keeper Palmer wasn’t tested until the second half. Having taken the lead Albion were content to keep their defensive shape and hit Reading on the break. Reading’s best chance before the interval was a near post glancing header by Joao from a Hoilett cross.
In the second half the game opened up as Reading committed more players forward in search of the equaliser. Albion almost increased their lead when Loum was caught in possession in his own half and it took some good defending to block attempts by Diangana and Phillips in quick succession. Referee Tim Robinson had a poor game making several very strange decisions which tended go in Albion’s favour. McIntyre was brought down when going past an Albion defender and was, in my opinion, shown a yellow card for simulation as players and fans began to express their increasing frustration. Meite replaced Carrol presumably to inject a bit more pace into the attack as Reading began to mount pressure on the Albion defence.
The next goal was going to be crucial and after seventy-two minutes Hendrick delayed his decision to release the ball just inside his own half and was dispossessed by Gardner-Hickman who raced on to the lash the ball past Bouzanis from just outside the box. Alex Rae placed the blame for the goal on the referee, but in my view, a player of Hendrick’s experience should not have been caught with ball in that situation with passing options available.
Reading pressure began to tell and Baggies ‘keeper Palmer produced a string of saves from Meite, Hehdrick, Loum and Hoilett. There was no lack of effort from Reading and there were an encouraging performances in the second half from Joao and Loum. Joao began to show more determination to retain possession, holding off challenges a spraying passes around to bring others in to the game in the Albion half. Loum, having shown some typical lapses in concentration, took control of the centre of midfield and began to play with confidence and authority. Defensively he chased back to make timely and crucial challenges deep in his own half.
As far selection and formation goes, playing two up front left us light in midfield and I still prefer Fornah alongside Loum in the centre of midfield in terms of keeping possession. Hendrick works hard but he lacks pace and his technique lets him down at times, especially when it comes to finishing.
Bizarrely, Reading have now lost two games in succession, and with the exception of Hull City have the poorest goal difference in the Championship, having only managed to win half their games, and yet are still a mere three points behind new leaders Burnley at the top of the Championship! Albion on the other hand, have only just moved out of the bottom three having only lost four games in this season. A mere five points separate the top eleven sides in the Championship. It looks like it is going to be quite scramble for play-off places this season.
This Championship game took place 45 days ago in the 2022/2023 season.