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16:54 13th February 2010

Report: Baggies snatch late draw

Reading 2 (Kebe 1, Church 73)
West Brom 2 (Koren 18, Mattock 87)

West Brom scored with only three minutes to go to snatch a replay after a pulsating FA Cup tie at Madejski Stadium.

Both teams ended the game with ten men, and Jimmy Kebe scored Reading's fastest ever goal after only nine seconds.

The Malian finished with aplomb even though West Brom had kicked off, but Robert Koren - only in the team because of an injury to a team-mate in the warm-up - prodded home on 18 minutes and soon afterwards hit the post.

Shane Long was shown a straight red card for a late challenge just a few minutes into the second half, only for Baggies sub Youssuf Mulumbu to see red not long afterwards for his second yellow card in just 16 minutes.

Sub Simon Church then turned home after being sent clear expertly by fellow replacement Grzegorz Rasiak, and if our skipper Ivar Ingimarsson had just been able to divert a headed chance home soon after, it would more than likely have been game over. But Joe Mattock shot home nicely with only three minutes to go, Adam Federici no chance.

We will now face the Baggies again at the Hawthorns a week on Wednesday - and our FA Cup journey is very much still alive after another display of tenacity and character.

Reading (4-2-3-1): Federici; Griffin, Bertrand, Ingimarsson (c), Mills; Karacan (Tabb 84), Gunnarsson, Howard (Church 48); McAnuff, Kebe (Rasiak 64); Long
Subs: Hamer, Pearce, Henry, Robson-Kanu
Booked: Howard (foul 44)
Sent off: Long (foul 48)

West Brom (4-2-3-1): Carson; Zuiverloon, Mattock, Meite (Tamas 52), Olsson; Jara (Mulumbu HT), Dorrans; Cox, Brunt (Moore 74), Bednar
Subs: Kiely, Brown, Mantom, Wood
Booked: Mulumbu (foul 46), Tamas (foul 65)
Sent off: Mulumbu (foul, second yellow 61)

Attendance: 18,008 (4,416 away fans)

Referee: Chris Foy

First half
Reading got off to an absolutely incredible start, with winger Jimmy Kebe scoring the fastest goal in the club's history. West Brom kicked off, and it was played out to right back Gianni Zuiverloon. His touch was poor though, and Kebe raced on to it deep in Baggies territory. He skipped past another man on the edge of the box, and slid a lovely low finish under Scott Carson with only nine seconds gone.

It was an unbelievable opening, but West Brom did not allow it to affect them too much and soon find their feet in the game. Former Reading man Simon Cox, lining up in a midfield role, had a great chance to equalise but headed just over; in fairness the cross did come to him very quickly.

The Baggies were clearly comfortable in possession, as you would expect from a table-topping side, and as the match progressed they were being to swing the pattern of play in their favour with a neat passing game.

With 18 on the clock they levelled matters. Chris Brunt showed good ability to cut in on the right wing and deliver a cross to the back post where Robert Koren beat the offside trap to prod home. It was perhaps harsh on Reading because Koren was not even due to start the game, but came into the XI after a warm-up injury to Andy Slory.

Soon enough Koren almost had another, Adam Federici doing very well to get across and apply the very faintest of touches onto his long-range effort, nudging it onto the post.

The remainder of the half saw Albion as marginally the better side, although they did not trouble Federici again.

Second half
West Brom made a change at half time, bringing Youssuf Mulmbu on for the injured Gonzalo Jara. Mulumbu was straight into the action, booked for a late challenge within a minute of his introduction into the midfield battle.

Then referee Chris Foy had a big decision to make, and showed Shane Long a straight red card for a late tackle on Abdoulaye Meite just wide of the Albion penalty area. In real time it looked harsh, but replays did suggest he jumped into the challenge somewhat and arguably left the official with little option but to dismiss him. The incident certainly was not malicious, and a forward's tackle in the truest sense.

As a result, Simon Church came on in place of Brian Howard to give us a presence up front, while Meite was forced off injured and replaced by Gabriel Tamas.

West Brom were lifted by their one-man advantage, and Roman Bednar was very close to stabbing home, then Brunt tried his luck from long range but Federici saw it wide.

But the Baggies' numerical supremacy only lasted 13 minutes until Mulumbu was shown a second yellow for pulling back Brynjar Gunnarsson as he dinked it past him.

Jobi McAnuff was then very close to curling home from the edge of the area after good play by sub Grzegorz Rasiak , and down the other end Joe Mattock belted one not far wide.

But Reading soon had the lead again, and two substitutes combined expertly. Rasiak played a lovely ball over the top, and Church timed his run to perfection. The flag stayed down - an excellent decision by the linesman - and our Welsh frontman was clear on goal. He tried a neat finish over Carson, but the keeper got a touch - only for it to roll to Church again and he turned home neatly at the near post.

With 17 minutes to go, we could have been forgiven for only trying to see the game out, but it was Church who came very close to making it 3-1, stinging Carson's palms on the turn from 10 yards after neat team play down the left.

Then skipper Ivar Ingimarsson had a golden chance as he rose to meet McAnuff's corner, but he just failed to get the right contact and it skewed off his head; just too quick for Rasiak to deal with at it flew to him at the back post.

At this time Andy Griffin was coming into his own with a sensational performance at right back, and cries of 'Griffin for England' went up from the East Stand - they were only partly in jest because the 30-year-old was brilliant.

There was to be another twist though and with three minutes left West Brom found a lifeline. Cox stabbed it wide to Mattock, who got forward well from left back, and drilled a low effort right into the far corner, Federici given no chance

Four minutes of extra time were then signalled as we looked for another grandstand finish. A McAnuff free kick caused problems inside the box late on but Carson was able to clear and an infringement followed in any event.

Albion were certainly happier with the result in the end, and that is credit to Brian McDermott's boys because they gave the division's top team a real run for their money.

The Baggies may be seen as favourites at the Hawthorns - but then again arguably Liverpool were also tipped to beat us in a replay, and we all know how that worked out!

Five minutes of match highlights are live on Reading FC Player now, and you can see all four goals, both red cards, all the other key chances and more besides from an incredible cup tie. Brian McDermott also gives his full post-match verdict - sign up from less than 10p per day.
    Data provided by Press Association