There were a few reasons why I was looking forward to this game. West Bromwich is less than 30 miles from my home (a novelty and somewhat of a reprieve from the 300-mile round trip for a home game), I love a game under the floodlights, and I was optimistic to see whether we could build on our emphatic win at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
Even though we only got a point, Wednesday’s performance at the Hawthorns was almost more impressive than the win against Cardiff. Don’t get me wrong, we played very well against a poor Cardiff side and earned our 3-0 victory, but West Brom proved much more of a challenge. They showed why they are one of the early favourites to be promoted, and they a strong, organised outfit. However, we matched them and competed with them for large periods of the game.
Our defensive display was outstanding, and we were unlucky not to keep a clean sheet. The trio of Liam Moore, Matt Miazga and Michael Morrison is going from strength to strength and, with the back-up of Rafael in goal - along with the defensive support in midfield, we’ll seriously reduce the amount of goals we let in.
We may not have been as clinical going forward as we would’ve liked, but I don’t think that was any cause for concern and I certainly didn’t think we’d have as many opportunities as we did. The team looked like it was full of ideas; George Puscas still looked strong up top and battled well for the ball, while Lucas Joao did just as well when he came on in the second half. Andy Yiadom and Omar Richards out wide worked tirelessly when we had the opportunity to attack.
Ovie Ejaria was another class above everyone else, again. I tweeted after the Cardiff game that he’s showing why it was so important that we got him back on loan again this season and he didn’t disappoint on Wednesday night. His footwork, skill and awareness of everything else that’s going on around him is incredible. It was a shame that he gave the penalty away but up to that point he had been faultless, and I think he’ll be vital to the team this season.
After last season, who would’ve thought that we’d have gone to West Brom and been ever so slightly disappointed to come away with a draw? It probably was a fair result, but to be leading with a few minutes to go, I definitely got that sinking feeling in my stomach when Zohore netted the Baggies’ equaliser from the spot.
Four points from the last two games is really impressive. I know we’re only four games into the new season but it feels like things are changing. The squad is certainly starting to gel, and the performance on Wednesday showed that the win against Cardiff wasn’t just a one-off. I’m starting to get excited about watching football again. I don’t believe we’ll get above mid-table this season, but there’s passion and fight in this Reading team and I think we’ll have a really positive season.