A Romelu Lukaku strike was enough to earn West Bromwich Albion a 1-0 win over Reading.
Former Royals striker Shane Long came on to haunt his old club as he headed the ball down to Lukaku who fired low past Alex McCarthy with his left foot.
West Brom moved up to third in the Premier League table with this victory, while Reading remained bottom having yet to record a win this season.
Lukaku was handed his full debut for West Brom in place of the suspended Peter Odemwingie. Zoltan Gera and Chris Brunt also came into the starting line-up, with Marc-Antoine Fortune and Long dropping to the bench.
Reading manager Brian McDermott made two changes from the side that lost to Tottenham, Nicky Shorey and Adam Le Fondre starting for the Royals in place of Ian Harte and Jem Karacan.
West Brom came out of the blocks quicker and Reading’s Alex McCarthy, again preferred in goal to Adam Federici, had to get down superbly to push a low shot from James Morrison around the post. The Royals defence afforded Morrison far too much space as they backed off and allowed the former Middlesbrough man to get his shot away.
Reading failed to find their rhythm early on although Garath McCleary attempted a spectacular overhead kick and Ben Foster had to be on his mettle to catch under his crossbar.
Morrison was the liveliest of West Brom’s midfielders and he had the Baggies’ second presentable chance of the first-half as he played a fine one-two with Gera before dragging his shot well wide of McCarthy’s right-hand post. It was a glorious exchange between the two midfielders and a move that deserved a better finish.
West Brom came within a whisker of taking the lead moments before-half-time. Chris Brunt curled in a corner and Jonas Olsson rose well to head against the bar.
McCarthy continued his personal duel with Morrison as he dived to his right to push out a fierce volley. Morrison’s effort from the edge of the area looked to be flying in until McCarthy’s intervention.
Nicky Shorey curled a free-kick a couple of metres wide of Foster’s left post as Reading struggled to create chances at The Hawthorns.
McCarthy had to be alert as he dashed out to get a foot on the ball as Lukaku closed in on goal, but he could not prevent the on-loan Chelsea striker from giving his side the lead after 71 minutes.
Long had only been on the pitch for six minutes after replacing the injured Morrison when he rose impressively above Chris Gunter to head the ball down to Lukaku.
The young striker was reluctant to use his weaker right foot all afternoon and that was again the case here as he shuffled it onto his left before firing low past McCarthy. The goal was just reward for a terrific show of endeavour in the lone striker’s role.
Reading pushed forward in the final 15 minutes but only really threatened when McCleary produced a clever piece of trickery on the right before crossing the ball to Hal Robson-Kanu who headed just over the bar.
MAN OF THE MATCH
James Morrison – West Bromwich Albion: A fine performance as he gave the Reading defence continual problems in his position just behind Lukaku. He was denied by two fine saves from McCarthy before going off injured after 65 minutes.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Foster 7, Jones 6, McAuley 7, Olsson 7, Ridgewell 7, Yacob 7, Mulumbu 8, Brunt 7, Morrison 8, Gera 7, Lukaku 7. Subs: Rosenberg 6, Long 7, Dorrans 6.
READING: McCarthy 8, Gunter 6, Shorey 6, Gorkss 7, Pearce 6, Guthrie 6, Leigertwood 7, McAnuff 7, McCleary 6, Le Fondre 6, Pogrebnyak 5. Subs: Robson-Kanu 6, Hunt 6.
- Alex McCarthy
- West Bromwich Albion
- Chris Brunt
- Nicky Shorey