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How Michael Hector Helped Reading FC Beat West Bromwich Albion

Match of the Day may have concentrated on West Brom's failings but our own in-depth analysis of the highlights shows Brian McDermott's team deserved more praise than they received.

It was a great shame that one incident dominated yesterday's match. The disgraceful coin throwing incident has been much discussed elsewhere so I won't dwell on it. It is a tad ironic though that it deflected attention away from West Brom's poor performance, which was probably the opposite of what the idiot wanted to do.

Tony Pulis' side did not completely get away from scrutiny though. Kevin Kilbane dissected their display yesterday on Match of the Day. He talked about how poor they were in possession and lacked any intensity. Sadly he did not mention that part of that was down to the way Reading played.

Brian McDermott had set his team up in the same shape they used against Burnley. Michael Hector once again took on the holding midfielder role and put in the sort of performance which showed why Chelsea paid £4 million for him. With Hector protecting the defence, Reading's four man midfield was able to press the opposition and support their lone striker.

The tone for the match was set right from kick off. Albion, and Sandro in particular, may have been rather lackadaisical in possession but Reading did not give them time on the ball. The picture below shows Simon Cox winning the ball from Sandro with Reading's midfield all close to him. Michael Hector's position, circled in yellow, allows Oliver Norwood and Stephen Quinn to play much higher up the pitch than they would be if they did not have a player covering them.

WBA Hector Role #01

The picture below highlights this again. Kilbane used this clip as an example of an aimless long ball from West Brom. Another look at it perhaps explains why Darren Fletcher has taken that option. Quite simply, apart from playing it backwards he doesn't have another one.

Quinn is closing him down so he hasn't got time on the ball. Quinn is also blocking a pass to Stéphane Sessègnon as are Reading's other midfielders to the other West Brom players close to Fletcher. Hector's position has allowed them to step up whilst he is also blocking a through ball to West Brom's strikers.

WBA Hector Role #02

Perhaps the incident that best showed the good work Hector did was on a potentially dangerous West Brom counter attack. Saido Berahino had picked up the ball deep in his own half but had no Reading player near him.

Norwood and Quinn are well behind Berahino. Reading's full backs, circled in blue, are also out of position. Hector's presence meant Reading's centre backs could hold their positions which made it harder for Salomón Rondón to make a run. Berahino is also forced to make a decision and rather than try to beat Hector he plays a miscued pass to nowhere.

WBA Hector Role #03

The other impact Hector had on the game was how he allowed Reading to get men forward in attack. The picture below shows a late West Brom ball into the box.

Hector is near to Berahino and Rondón. There is actually a fair distance between Norwood and Quinn which they couldn't do without Hector between them. Their positioning means they are closer to West Brom's wide players which makes it less necessary for Ola John and Hal Robson-Kanu to stay so deep.

WBA Hector Role #05

As long as John and Robson-Kanu are close enough to get back to help they do not need to drop too deep to help narrow the Reading midfield. That of course means that when Reading win the ball back they can go forward without worrying about the consequences.

This freedom is shown in the best chance of the first half. Reading only had three players in the opposition half when Cox plays a neat pass to Deniss Rakels. Yet by the time Norwood crosses the ball into the box there are seven Reading players in and around West Brom's box.

WBA Hector Role #06

WBA Hector Role #07

This is also a great example on the fluidity of modern day football formations. Defensively Reading were a clear 4-1-4-1 formation but with this chance they have ended up in a 3-4-3.

That is how it should be in attack. As I said before the season started, if Reading are attacking in a clear formation there is a good chance they are being predictable. You want your players to have the flexibility and freedom to make runs.

Reading's third goal perfectly highlighted how the players thrived with this system. When John won the ball back Reading were in a compact 4-1-4-1 formation. Hector is once again in the right position covering Reading's centre backs.

WBA Hector Role #08

When the ball finally entered West Brom's area Reading have five men in attack despite it being injury time. We all know Piazon was in the box but Norwood's positioning on the edge of the box is probably much further forward than you would expect. I doubt he would have been so high up the pitch if Reading were playing a 4-4-2.

WBA Hector Role #09

As good as Reading played there were still occasions when you could see that individuals and the team were still getting used to this system. Reading's problems in dealing with transitional phases of play was also evident.

The picture below is taken from the build up to West Brom's goal. Rakels has closed down James Chester who played the ball to Sessègnon who is now on the ball. Hector moved to close down Sandro which left a big area in front of Reading's defence for Albion to attack. Fletcher has taken up a position in the centre with Norwood and Quinn nearby.

WBA Hector Role #10

When Sessègnon plays the ball Hector is out of position meaning Quinn has to close down Rondón. Fletcher has started to make an attacking run but Norwood is ball watching.

WBA Hector Role #11

Hector is still getting back when Rondón crosses the ball. Fletcher is unmarked at the edge of the box with the distance between him and Norwood having grown from a few metres to half Reading's half. Ball watching and poor positioning allowed West Brom to play right through Reading.

WBA Hector Role #12

The final picture shows that this wasn't an isolated incident. Here we can see Alex Pritchard receiving the ball behind Hector with a big gap between Reading's defence and midfield. Luckily for Reading Sessègnon missed the resulting chance.

WBA Hector Role #13

It should be said that these were some of the rare occasions when West Brom actually played some decent football. Defending transitional phases is also tough. When the opposition win the ball back your own players might be out of position.

When that happens it forces other players to cover. In some cases that might be by holding their position even if that allows the opposition the ball. Other times it might mean closing down a player in an area where a teammate should be.

There will always be times when individuals will make the wrong decision. In split second situations that is only natural. However, for most of the game at the weekend Reading and Hector got it right.

All images are taken from BBC Match of the Day highlights.