CHAMPIONSHIP leaders West Bromwich Albion strengthened their Premier League promotion push as they came from a goal behind against Reading to take all three points from the Madejski Stadium.
George Puscas put the Royals in front from the penalty spot in the 11th minute after Kyle Bartley’s hand ball but the Baggies equalised through Matheus Pereira before Bartley made amends to head in the winner early in the second half.
The Royals winless run of six in the league sees them in 16th position in the Championship table with 39 points from 32 games.
Mark Bowen had rotation in mind after Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Hull City as Felipe Araruna came in to make his first start, while Andy Yiadom made a return from injury and George Puscas made a return to the starting eleven.
Both sides traded early chances as Yakou Meite went on a mazy run, beating a few Albion players before hitting an ambitious effort well off target from range.
West Brom went close when former Reading player Hal Robson-Kanu met Conor Townsend’s cross as his header landed on the roof of the net from close range.
Albion then went inches away from taking the lead as Filip Krovinovic’s powerful shot squirmed under Rafael, but took enough of a deflection off the Brazilian goalkeeper to bounce up and onto the crossbar.
Having survived an early scare, Reading were awarded a golden chance to break the deadlock as Kyle Bartley inconspicuously handled the ball in the box after a corner, resulting in a Royals penalty.
Puscas stepped up and dispatched the spot kick into the bottom left hand corner to score his 7th Championship goal of the season as Baggies goalkeeper Sam Johnstone guessed the wrong way.
Having taken an early lead, it was the visitors who went on to take the initiative for much of the half, enduring long spells of possession as Reading struggled to retain the ball.
Yiadom picked up the first yellow card of the game as he flew into a sliding tackle and despite taking some of the ball, the referee deemed it enough contact to caution the full-back.
The travelling Albion fans thought their side had equalised from a free kick when Matheus Pereira struck, resulting in a loud cheer from the fans at the opposite end of the ground. But much to Reading and Rafael’s relief, the free kick went inches wide of the post.
But it wasn’t long before West Brom’s dominance paid off as Periera struck an equaliser from a cross as he followed up his first shot which was well saved by Rafael to convert at the second time of asking.
Rafael did well to keep Reading on terms going into the break as he saved a low drive from Jake Livermore at his near post before flying low to his right to hold Krovinovic’s shot.
Promotion pushing Albion continued their superiority early in the second half as they threatened to take the lead as Robinson hit a fierce strike which cannoned back off the crossbar.
And just minutes later, the visitors had a deserved lead when Bartley made amends for conceding a first-half penalty to meet Krovinovic’s cross and loop a header over Rafael.
The Baggies should have added another quickly after going in front as they surged forward but Livermore lifted Robinson’s cut back over the bar from close range.
Araruna’s first start was ended early in the second half as he was replaced by Andy Rinomhota in the 52nd minute.
The Royals made a promising breakaway as they searched for an equaliser as Rinomhota won possession back having initially given the ball away cheaply, but the chance was denied by the offside flag against Puscas after Swift’s through ball.
Rinomhota then rounded Albion keeper Johnstone but took his touch far too wide as his eventual cross won the Royals a corner in an improved spell, but the Baggies held firm to clear.
Yakou Meite was found wide on the right by Rinomhota’s pass and curled a brilliant effort just inches past the top left-hand corner.
The Royals second change of the game saw Charlie Adam replace Pele.
Adam made an instant impact as the Royals thought they had an equaliser by were denied by the lineman’s offside flag. Adam sent a pinpoint long ball into the box as Meite headed pas the onrushing Johnstone only to be denied by the flag.
Reading’s final change saw Sam Baldock take the place of Swift with 10 minutes left.
The hosts created another good opportunity down the right but Puscas could only hook Meite’s cross wide of the target.
Reading were unable to create another chance in the four minutes of added time as they fell to defeat against the Championship leaders, who now have a six point gap at the top of the division.
Reading: Rafael, Yiadom, Morrison, Moore (c), Obita, Pelé, Araruna, Swift, Ejaria, Méïté, Pușcaș.
Subs: Walker, Rinomhota, Baldock, Olise, Blackett, Adam, Richards.
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone, O’Shea, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsend, Sawyers, Livermore, Robinson, Krovinovic, Pereira, Robson-Kanu.
Subs: Bond, Furlong, Phillips, Grosicki, Austin, Harper, Hegazi.
Goals: Puscas 11′ (pen), Pereira 26′, Bartley 49′