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Reading 0 West Brom 0 - Report and pictures

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

After shipping three goals in the opening 20 minutes in their last away game, the Baggies attempted to bore themselves to a rare win at the Madejski Stadium.

But following the dullest half of football Albion have been a part of in the Championship this season, they couldn't find a later winner in a slightly better second half.

Instead, they picked up their first goalless draw in the league this season, and their first draw at all under caretaker boss James Shan.

It was enough to cement their place in the top six and cement Reading's place in the Championship next season.

Perhaps it was the hot weather and a second game in four days, perhaps it was the six changes Jimmy Shan made to guard against injuries, or perhaps it was the knowledge that Albion's fate rests in a mini-tournament next month.

But this was not a performance that lived up to Albion's reputation for scoring and conceding bundles of goals. The Great Entertainers? Absolutely not.

Considering the Baggies have now failed to win in their last 12 visitors to Reading, a run that stretches all the way back to 1995, and the Royals have only lost one in their last nine at home, a rich vein of form that has seen them secure safety, it's not an awful point.

Shan rested key players like Dwight Gayle and Kieran Gibbs and also hit the woodwork twice - through Rekeem Harper and Jay Rodriguez.

On another day, either side might've won this. But the Baggies will want to go into the play-offs with as much momentum as possible, and will surely play a first XI in their final two games of the season for that reason.

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Shan's men are now just two points ahead of Villa in the table, and will not want to give them a psychological edge of catching them ahead of an inevitable showdown.

Reading got off to a tricky start, because their players were dropping like flies. They nearly found Nelson Oliveira two minutes in with a ball over the top that caught Craig Dawson out, but the striker tweaked his hamstring stretching for the ball and had to be replaced by Danny Loader.

The in-form Yakou Meite, who had five goals in his previous five games, tried to continue but was eventually forced off after 12 minutes with a similar muscle strain.

That didn't stop the home side enjoying most of the ball early on, and pushing the Baggies back into their own half.

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Substitute Gareth McCleary looked lively, and had the first shot of the match 20 minutes in, but it was blocked by Kyle Bartley, Albion's captain for the day.

The Baggies were trying to build their attacks patiently, and eventually forced Emi Martinez into a save after 25 minutes, when Hal Robson-Kanu cruyff turned on the edge of the box before shooting.

Jacob Murphy stung his palms from range moments later, but Reading were seeing most of the ball, and half-an-hour in, Ovie Ejaria burst into the box before screwing his shot wide.

In truth, it was one of the dullest halves of football Albion had played in the Championship this season.

Sam Field did his job well, Bartley got in the way a few times, and Mason Holgate was trying to get forward, but apart from that, there was very little for the sold-out away end to cheer.

The tempo finally picked up in the second half thanks to both sets of fans urging their teams to do something.

Loader forced Sam Johnstone into a save before Robson-Kanu's knock down nearly found Rekeem Harper in the six yard box.

The teenager was then whiskers away from giving Albion the lead, smacking the underside of the crossbar from 20 yards out after some neat build-up play from Holgate and Jay Rodriguez.

That was Holgate's last contribution because on the hour mark Shan sent on Matt Phillips to inject some energy into his side.

Harper's shot seemed to wake the whole stadium up, because suddenly, a football match broke out.

Reading were looking lively, and Ejaria blazed a glorious chance over the bar from 10 yards out before Matt Miazga nearly caught Johnstone off his line from 40 yards.

Shan sent Chris Brunt on for Field, who had a solid game in midfield, before Ejaria put a free header straight at Johnstone.

Both sides tried to grab a late winner. Robson-Kanu nearly found Conor Townsend at the far post before Lewis Baker forced Johnstone into a superb fingertip save from a free-kick that was destined for the top corner.

Bartley had a header cleared off the line, before Shan rolled the dice one last time, sending the red-hot Dwight Gayle on with eight minutes to go.

The Reading fans thought they'd won a penalty when the whistle blew after McCleary went down in the box under Brunt's challenge, but the substitute was booked for diving instead.

And then Albion nearly won it in injury time when Rodriguez smacked the post before Gayle's rebound effort was cleared off the line, but Reading clung onto the point that guarantees their safety.

The full-time whistle was greeted with euphoria in the home end, and shrugs in the away end.

KEY MOMENTS

59 CROSSBAR! Harper smacks the underside of the bar from 20 yards

65 Ejaria blazes over from 10 yards out.

80 Bartley has a header cleared off the line

84 McCleary is booked for diving in the box

90 POST! Rodriguez smacks the post from range.

POSITION IN THE TABLE

4th, with 77 points from 44 games.

TEAMS

Reading (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Yiadom, Moore (c), Miazga, Blackett (Gunter 56); Baker, Rinomhota; Meite (McCleary 13), Ejaria, Barrow; Oliveira (Loader 5).

Unused subs: Baldock, Harriott, Walker, McIntyre.

Albion (3-4-3): Johnstone; Adarabioyo, Dawson, Bartley (c); Holgate (Phillips 61), Harper, Field (Brunt 66), Townsend; Rodriguez, Robson-Kanu (Gayle 83), Murphy.

Unused subs: Bond, Gibbs, Mears, Hoolahan.

Referee: G Ward

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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