West Bromwich Albion v Reading; The Hawthorns, Monday 2nd January 2023, 3pm
Carlos Corberán’s Albion kick off the new year with the visit of Reading to the Hawthorns looking to extend the excellent run of form that saw the Baggies win six of the last seven games of 2022.
Friday’s results saw the Baggies drop out of the top ten but they remain just one point off the play-off places ahead of Sunday’s fixtures. The division remains incredibly tight with just three points separating the teams in 4th and 15th. Having won their first away game of the season at Reading in October, Albion have the chance to record their first league double of the season on Monday.
Paul Ince’s team are also on a decent run having won three of the last five games and earned a 1-1 draw at Norwich City on Friday night. That run was preceeded by a run of just one win in nine matches in what has been something of a streaky campaign for the Royals. Excellent form in the first two months of the campaign saw them in third place in the table in early October and they now sit just one point and one place better off than Albion in 10th.
The point at Carrow Road was secured thanks to a late penalty from former Baggie, Andy Carroll, who is incongruously wearing the number two shirt this season. That was his fourth goal of the season, two of which have come from the penalty spot, while another former Albion striker, Shane Long, has scored just once since his return to the club where he started his career in England, a penalty against Cardiff City in August. The Royals’ top scorer is the boss’s son, Tom Ince, who has six goals with the most recent coming in the 2-1 win over Swansea City on Tuesday last week.
Reading have been particularly strong from set pieces this season, scoring eight times off corners and free kicks, and have also scored five of the six penalties they have been awarded this season, Yakou Méïté responsible for the one they missed against Swansea last week which didn’t end up costing them points. They have been awarded more penalties than any other Championship team this campaign suggesting they are adept a drawing challenges in the box.
I’m sure that Corberán will be well aware of Reading’s strengths and will have prepared the side well to deal with them. We will have to see whether that results in a change in personnel at the back with Semi Ajayi surely anxious to return to the team. Albion were tested with a number of set pieces by Preston towards the end of Thursday’s game and stood up well, and North End have matched Reading with eight set piece goals this season.
News emerged over the weekend that Kyle Bartley is likely to miss the next four or five weeks following a scan on a thigh injury but he is the only injury concern reported other than long term absentee Kean Bryan.
Recent history would suggest that Dike will start on Monday with he and Thomas-Asante having been alternating starts since the World Cup break, while John Swift may well start in place of Tom Rogić in the number ten role having impressed off the bench on Thursday. The only other change that we are likely to see is a potential return for Matt Phillips in place of Grady Diangana, although I felt that the former West Ham winger did well against Preston and could keep his place.
Albion’s Spanish boss was a little critical of his side for the last ten minutes of Thursday’s match when they lost a little control of the game leading to a few dangerous set pieces; I’m sure he will be impressing the need to keep such situations to a minimum against Reading.
The team will still be full of confidence of course and if they perform, there should be nothing to stop them recording yet another victory and starting 2023 off in a positive manner.
Reading have only ever spent three seasons in the top flight meaning that all but two of the league meetings between the clubs have been in lower divisions. The first meeting was in the 1927/28 season after the Baggies had been relegated to Division Two a season after Reading had first been promoted.
Albion did the double over the Royals that season with an aggregate score of 9-4 and Reading only managed to take three points off the Baggies in the four seasons they shared a division until Albion returned to the top flight in 1931. It would be 55 years until the next league meeting although the sides were drawn together in cup competitions twice in the intervening years. At the Hawthorns in the the third round of the FA Cup in January 1948, the hosts ran out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from George Dury and Roy Finch. Almost two decades later, Reading knocked Albion out of the 1967 League Cup at Elm Park becoming the first team to defeat the Baggies in the competition other than in the final.
Albion’s relegation to Division Two in 1986 saw the clubs meet in the league once again and Reading won at the Hawthorns for the first time in December of that year. Kevin Bremner and Trevor Senior both scored early in the first half and it took until four minutes to go until Albion replied through Garth Crooks. The visitors held on for a 2-1 victory.
The Royals’ only other league victory in B71 was less than two years later when Linden Jones scored the only goal of the game in February 1988. Reading’s other two wins at the Hawthorns were in cup competitions, 4-2 in the second leg of a League Cup second round tie in 1995 and most recently in an FA Cup fifth round reply in February 2010. Albion were 2-1 up as the game went into stoppage time thanks to a brace from Robert Koren but goals from Brian Howard and Gylfi Sigurðsson added to Jimmy Kébé’s first half strike to send the Royals through to the quarter finals where they were beaten by Aston Villa.
That was Albion’s last home defeat to Reading and they are currently enjoying a seven match unbeaten run against the Royals having last lost to them in the FA Cup at the Madejski Stadium in 2016. That includes a league double last season, one of only three that the Baggies registered in that campaign,
Albion’s biggest win over Reading was the 4-1 win in October 2018 – Leandro Bacuna gave the visitors an early lead but goals from Dwight Gayle (2), Harvey Barnes and Kyle Bartley saw the hosts take all three points.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
15 Oct 2022 – League Championship
West Brom 2 (Phillips, Gardner-Hickman)
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
11 Dec 2021 – League Championship
West Brom 1 (Robinson)
Albion’s Record against Reading
If you cannot see the tables, click here.