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Albion edge it

22 September 2012

West Brom 1-0 Reading

West Brom 1 (Lukaku 71)
Reading 0

A second half strike from home debutant Romelu Lukaku was all that separated the sides at the Hawthorns this afternoon. 

Two excellent Alex McCarthy saves from James Morrison had kept the home side out, each time the Royals stopper diving low to his right to push sweetly struck efforts around his post.

And the woodwork had also helped the visitors out just before half time when Jonas Olsson headed against the post.

But during a second half spell in which Brian McDermott's men were on top, Albion broke the deadlock. Substitute Shane Long headed back to Romelu Lukaku on the edge of the area, who controlled the ball and drilled home the only goal of the game.

Jobi McAnuff had two penalty claims waved away and substitute Hal Robson-Kanu headed McCleary's cross just over the crossbar late on as Reading refused to give the game up. But the Baggies held on for all three points. 

West Brom (4-2-3-1): Foster; McAuley, Jones, Olsson, Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob, Gera (Dorrans 70), Morrison (Long 65), Brunt (c); Lukaku (Rosenberg 77).
Subs: Myhill, Jara, Dawson, Fortune.
Yellow: Yacob

Reading (4-4-2): McCarthy; Gunter (Robson-Kanu 79), Shorey, Gorkss, Pearce; Leigertwood, Guthrie, McAnuff (c), McCleary; Le Fondre, Pogrebnyak (Hunt 68).
Subs: Taylor, Cummings, Mariappa, Karacan, Church.

Referee: Mr Chris Foy
Attendance: 23,854

First half
The first chance of the game fell the hosts' way and it was a good one. James Morrison edged towards the edge of the Royals box and arrowed a low right-footed drive destined for the bottom left corner, until Alex McCarthy pulled out a superb save to tip it round the base of his right post.

Shortly after, Reading made Ben Foster work; McAnuff's cross from the left popped up in the air for McCleary to attempt an overhead from 15 yards out. It was well executed but Foster saved it comfortably in the end.

A lovely exchange of passes between Gera and Morrison allowed the latter to fire another effort at goal from closer range this time, but the Albion midfielder dragged his shot across the face of goal and well wide on the half hour mark.

McAnuff then scurried past Billy Jones down the left and wrestled his way into the area, before tumbling after a push from the full back. But neither a free kick nor a penalty was given by referee Chris Foy to the Royals' skipper's dismay.

Five minutes before the break, Morrison and Lukaku broke at pace. Pearce forced Morrison wide and the midfielder's floated cross was too high for Lukaku to head back with any power and McCarthy punched the danger clear.

Guthrie couldn't test Foster with a set piece moments later and Shorey's far post free-kick was met by Pearce but headed harmlessly behind for a goal kick.

Morrison and Lukaku were linking up well though and, just before half-time a Morrison slide rule pass found the powerful striker racing through on goal. Chris Gunter slid in brilliantly to deny the striker and concede a corner, from which Jonas Olsson rose high to head against the top of the post.

Second half

In the opening throes of the second half, Lukaku stretched for a header at one end but couldn't keep it down, then Le Fondre challenged unsuccessfully in the air with Foster, running onto a good McAnuff inswinging cross.

Three minutes later, Pogrebnyak flicked on a Gunter clearance from the back and Le Fondre scuttled onto it. He got his head to the bouncing ball a fraction before McAuley's right boot connected with the Royals striker's head, but no foul was given and the danger dissipated.

A quite stunning McCarthy save came to Reading's rescue in the 56th minute. A cleared cross dropped to Morrison who sweetly volleyed goalwards from 22 yards out. But a flying McCarthy saved well low to his right to concede a corner which the young goalkeeper confidently came to claim.

At the other end, McAnuff wove his way through two Baggies defenders yet again and was sandwiched as he looked to dribble into the box. But Albion weren't penalised to McAnuff's frustration.

Shorey curled a free kick wide, then Gunter's set piece found Pearce at the far post but his header back across could only find an Albion shirt.

McCarthy raced off his line to deny Lukaku after Gunter's header back to his keeper had fallen a little short and given the lively Albion striker a glimmer of hope.

Shane Long was introduced and, shortly after his rousing ovation from both sets of fans he went about disappointing the visiting supporters. He rose high to head a cross back to Lukaku on the edge of the box and the powerhouse striker got the ball out from under his feet and rifled low past two defensive blocks and McCarthy to give the home side the lead.

Hal Robson-Kanu came off the bench to head a deep McCleary cross inches over the bar and onto the roof of the net, as Reading pressed hard for a leveller. But it never came.

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