Reading are the visitors to the Hawthorns on Wednesday evening with Albion looking to build on their impressive start to the season away from home with three points on their own patch.
Having won both of their games on the road so far this season, Slaven Bilić’s side are sitting prettily in third place in the Championship table, but a home win would reassure the Hawthorns faithful that all is moving in the right direction.
Seven points from nine is an excellent return, particularly when you consider that Bilić is still building the understanding within what is a markedly different squad from last season. Albion have dominated possession in each game so far, but they have never really looked like dominating the scoreline. Grady Diangana’s introduction at Luton on Saturday made a massive difference to the potency of the Baggies attack and it will be interesting to see whether Slav will change his starting line up for what would be the first time in the league this season.
The Croat obviously has concerns over the match fitness of Charlie Austin, and it would have been harsh to drop either Edwards or Phillips after the first couple of games, but the performances of both Diangana and Pereira at Kenilworth Road will certainly give him some food for thought.
While the composition of the front three is open for debate, the remainder of the side looks settled and strong. Romaine Sawyers looks to be bringing the best out of Jake Livermore, while Kyle Bartley looks a different player this season – calm, confident and tidy, he has had a great start to the season and, with Ajayi also looking good alongside him, Hegazi may struggle to get back in the side when he returns from injury next month. Meanwhile, Ferguson has been a revelation at right back while Gibbs is as reliable as ever on the opposite side.
However, with three Championship games in a week for the first time, Bilić may look to use his squad in one or both of this week’s games, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two changes.
Turning to the opposition, Reading went into Sunday’s home game with Cardiff City without a point this season rock bottom of the table. However, they then produced an excellent performance to despatch Neil Warnock’s promotion hopefuls 3-0 with new signing, Romanian international George Pușcaș, scoring a brace on his full Championship debut. The Bluebirds were pretty dismal, but Royals manager, José Gomes, will be delighted with his side’s performance.
When the two clubs met at the Madejski in April, the hosts celebrated a 0-0 draw wildly as it more-or-less secured their place in the second tier, and many pundits have Reading as one of the favourites for relegation, but Pușcaș, a €10m signing from Internazionale, could make a massive difference to their hopes this season if Sunday’s performance is anything to go by.
The Romanian wasn’t Reading’s only big money signing over the summer with striker, Lucas João, joining from Sheffield Wednesday for an undisclosed fee rumoured to be around £5m. They have also brought in a number of free transfers and loan players including 33-year-old, Charlie Adam.
The Royals will obviously be buoyed by their result at the weekend, but the fact remains that they have only won one Championship match on the road since September last year, and that was at rock-bottom Ipswich in March.
With a tough trip to Derby to come at the weekend, three points against Reading would be very welcome, and Albion should be good enough to earn them.
In this piece I go back to the late 1920s for the first ever meeting between Albion and Reading at the Hawthorns. Having been relegated from the top flight the year before, the Baggies were in Division Two for the 1927/28 season. The Royals, who were enjoying their second season in the second tier, met the Baggies for the first time at Elm Park in September. Albion won that match 4-1 and were looking to complete the double in their quest for a return to the top flight.
It was not going well for Albion, however, as they found themselves in a lowly 9th place before the match, despite a 6-0 win at Grimsby Town in their previous league outing, some nine points off the top two promotion places. They had also exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle albeit going out at the hands of Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal.
The was a Richardson on show that day, but not either of the Williams who played for the Baggies – WG didn’t join Albion until the following year while Bill was still a youngster at that time. Frank Richardson played for the visitors and was a none too shabby goalscorer himself, as the Baggies found out that day, but it was another Albion legend who hogged the headlines.
It was a windy January day at the Hawthorns, and the hosts started out the match with the wind at their backs. The hosts started strongly with Jimmy Cookson firing just over the bar and Tommy Glidden striking a post early on. The wind was to play a part in the opening goal when Reading right-half, Bill Inglis, misjudged a high ball that was sailing out of play and fired it into his own net to give Albion the lead after six minutes.
Cookson went close again before Murdo McDonald converted Tommy Lindsay’s cross to equalise for the visitors on ten minutes. Jimmy Cookson was destined to get on the scoresheet, however, and he put Albion back in front six minutes later when he got on the end of Arthur Fitton’s cross to fire past Joe Duckworth.
The Manchester-born striker was in fine form and it didn’t take him long to add a second goal. Tommy Glidden raced through onto Evans’ through ball but his effort was saved by Duckworth only for Cookson to fire home the rebound.
Both sides came close to scoring in a pulsating match before Frank Richardson reduced the arrears for the visitors just before half time with a great solo goal.
With the wind at their back for the second half, Reading were hopeful of getting back into the game and they dominated the opening exchanges after the break. They were rewarded with the equaliser eleven minutes into the second period. Bert Batten’s shot was saved by Albion ‘keeper, George Ashmore, but Richardson managed to get his head on the rebound and, despite a scramble on the line, the goal was given.
It wasn’t level for long, however, and it was Cookson again who completed his hat trick when he knocked in another rebound, this time from Sammy Short’s shot which hit the cross bar.
Albion dominated the remainder of the game, with Cookson hitting the frame of the goal before he scored his fourth of the game from the penalty spot with 14 minutes left to make the final score 5-3.
Jimmy Cookson’s four goals put him top of the second division scoring charts with 25 – he would go on to score 38 goals in 38 games that season and finished his Albion career in 1932 with a remarkable tally of 110 goals in 131 games.
All competitions; most recent game on the right
22 Apr 2019 – League Championship
West Brom 0
Last meeting at the Hawthorns
6 Oct 2018 – League Championship
West Brom 4 (Gayle (2), Barnes, Bartley)
Reading 1 (Bacuna)
Albion’s Record against Reading