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12 January 2013

The Great Escape!

Reading 3 (Kebe 82, Le Fondre 88, Pogrebnyak 90)
West Brom 2 (Lukaku 18, 69)

Astonishing. Heart stopping. Season defining? Only time will tell what Saturday afternoon’s win over West Bromwich Albion will mean for the Royals – but one thing’s for sure, it will live long in the memory. 

An exemplary display of striking prowess from Chelsea-loanee Romelu Lukaku looked to have Reading dead and buried and with 82 minutes on the clock – a rather flat Madejski Stadium feared the worse.

But then the comeback started. Jimmy Kebe stooped to head home Garath McCleary’s cross, before the Malian was clumsily bundled over by Jonas Olsson after Danny Guthrie’s sweeping crossfield pass.

Substitute Adam Le Fondre stepped up to level the scores, and at that stage it seemed to be a point well earned.

But Pavel Pogrebnyak wasn’t quite satisfied – and ghosted in to the box to steer Alex Pearce’s flick on past a helpless Foster. Hope was back at Madejski Stadium.  

Reading: Federici, Harte, Gunter, Pearce, Mariappa, Carrico (McCleary HT), Karacan (Le Fondre 65), Guthrie, McAnuff, Kebe, Pogrebnyak 
Subs: Taylor, Cummings, Morrison, Akpan, McCleary, Le Fondre, Hunt

West Brom: Foster, Jones, Ridgewell, McAuley, Olson, Brunt (c), Dorrans (Rosenberg 11), Morrison, Thomas, Thorne; Lukaku 

Subs: Myhill, Dawson, Tamas, Popov, Nabi, El Ghanassy, Rosenberg 

Booked: Jones

Attendance: 23,495 (2,158)

First Half

Brian McDermott handed a full debut to Portuguese midfielder Daniel Carrico, on a bitterly cold afternoon at Madejski Stadium – that saw light snow falling to the floor before kick off.

The opening fifteen minutes of the clash were uneventful to say the least, with only a couple of foray’s down the wing by Jimmy Kebe threatening to break the deadlock. 

However the golden opening chance would fall to a red shirt – as a swift Baggies breakaway was almost rounded off by James Morrison – only for the midfielder to be denied by a superb save by Adam Federici. 

Sadly for the home side there was nothing Federici could do moments later, as another swift break down the wing by Morrison resulted in Romelu Lukaku arriving late in the six yard box to bundle home the opener. 

Kebe still looked the brightest threat for the Royals – running onto a ball over the top five minutes before the break, but seeing a heavy touch pounced upon by Jonas Olsson with goalkeeper Ben Foster stranded.

Second Half

Garath McCleary was introduced at half time for debutant Carrico, though it was the Baggies who again started brightly – with Lukaku rolling the ball into the net within the first five minutes, although the assistant’s flag was long up for offside. 

The home side were to have their chances too. Guthrie threaded a pinpoint pass out wide to Kebe, whose bouncing cross eventually found McCleary – who saw his shot cleared off the line with Foster stranded. 

Lukaku was a constant danger at the other end, as the on-loan Chelsea man crashed a header against the post after 60 minutes – after more good work from Morrison on down the flank. 

Good strength in the box from Pogrebnyak allowed the Russian international to shrug off his man two minutes later and head in on goal from the left touchline – but his cutback was well snuffed out by the Baggies backline.

Pavel was soon joined up front by Adam Le Fondre, has Brian changed both personnel and shape – with Jem Karacan making way. 

Seventy minutes in and Lukaku had the woodwork rattling once more, crashing a drive against the crossbar from 12 yards. 

Frustration for the Belgian youngster – but he wasn’t to be denied for long. Just a minute later and the Albion’s number 20 rampaged in from the left, before smashing a low drive past Federici and into the net.

Reading tried to respond. Good hold up play by Le Fondre resulted in McCleary’s cross to the far post – and Guthrie’s volley was well held by Foster.  

The game threatened to fall flat again as it entered the last ten minutes, but Reading did show their fight – as McCleary’s cross evaded everyone before falling to Kebe at the far post – who stooped a header home to half the deficit. 

Tails now up – the Royals came at the Baggies backline. A clever quick free-kick by Harte gave McCleary the chance to flummox his man and cutback to the edge of the box – where Guthrie’s effort was just held by Foster. 

And the opportunity  came. Guthrie’s sweeping crossfield ball allowed Kebe to gallop into the box - and Olsson’s clumsy challenge on Kebe could have given away a spot-kick for either a handball or a high boot. 

Either way Le Fondre stepped up, and with his name already ringing around Madejski Stadium – kept a cool head to wrong foot the ‘keeper and roll home his third goal in seven days.

The extraordinary drama wasn’t over. The ball dropped on the edge of the box, Pearce flicked on beautifully and Pogrebnyak ghosted in to flick home an astonishing winner. 

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