Hello everyone! You may be saddened by the fact that there is no Premier League action for us to provide you with, but we do have the magic of the FA Cup
! It's a competition that's known for its upsets as anything can happen in a one-off game. There are four fixtures in the calendar today, but right here, we are focusing on the fifth-round tie between Reading
and West Bromwich Albion
at the Madejski.
The FA Cup is a competition that Reading have enjoyed in the past 12 months. Last year, they reached the semi-finals, but were beaten in extra time by Arsenal. It's never enjoyable missing out on a final, but to go out at the hands of a Premier League giant, who went on to win the cup is nothing to feel bad about. This time, Reading are just two wins away from reaching the final four once again.
As for West Brom, their FA Cup campaign last season ended at the quarter-final stage by Aston Villa, who reached the final but lost to the Gunners. No disrespect to Reading, but Tony Pulis
was probably relieved to avoid fellow Premier League sides Everton, Arsenal, Watford and Bournemouth in the draw.
Before we delve any deeper, let's bring you the teams for today's match. We'll begin with the hosts...
READING XI: Al-Habsi; Gunter, Obita, McShane, Cooper; Norwood, Hector, Quinn, Robson-Kanu; Cox, Rakels
Subs: Bond, Vydra, McCleary, John, Ferdinand, Piazon, Barrett
The main news from Reading's team selection is that Matej Vydra is fit to be in the squad, but not fit enough to start as the forward, who has scored six FA Cup goals so far in this campaign, is recovering from a hamstring injury. Meanwhile, Deniss Rakels has been handed his full debut as he leads the line with Simon Cox.
Ali Al-Habsi will be between the sticks, with Chris Gunter, Jordan Obita, Paul McShane
and Jake Cooper lining the back four. Oliver Norwood, Michael Hector
, Stephen Quinn and Hal Robson-Kanu will sit in midfield, behind forwards Cox and Rakels.
Now for the Baggies...
WEST BROM XI: Foster; Olsson, Chester, Evans, Brunt; McClean, Fletcher, Sessegnon, Sandro; Berahino, Rondon
Subs: Myhill, Yacob, Gardner, Anichebe, Pocognoli, Lambert, Pritchard
has fielded a strong side this afternoon as he has made just two changes to the side that sealed a 1-0 win over Everton last weekend. Chris Brunt and Sandro come into the fold, replacing Claudio Yacob and Craig Dawson, who misses out because of injury.
Jonas Olsson, James Chester, Jonny Evans and Brunt line in the defence, protecting goalkeeper Ben Foster, while James McClean, Darren Fletcher
, Stephane Sessegnon and Sandro sit in midfield. Saido Berahino and Salomon Rondon will provide attacking threat.
As mentioned, Saido Berahino has made it into the starting XI, but it has not been the best of seasons for the England Under-21 international. Once again, the striker was heavily linked with a move away from The Hawthorns. Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Stoke City were registered with an interest in the January transfer window, but it was not to be as the Baggies held firm once again.
The club have clearly shown a strong desire to keep hold of Berahino, but that desire has not reflected on the pitch as the forward has struggled for game time. Last weekend against Everton, Berahino made just his first league start since October as for large chunks of the campaign he has had to settle for a place on the bench.
Speaking of the game against Everton, there has been some tension between manager Roberto Martinez and Pulis regarding Berahino's conduct. The Toffees boss told the press that the striker should have been sent off for allegedly stamping on James McCarthy, but the FA decided against taking any further action.
In response to Martinez's comments, Pulis told reporters: "There was no Saido tackle on McCarthy, otherwise they would have dealt with it. I was a little bit disappointed with Roberto in respect of trying to bring something up after we'd won the game.
"It almost smells of sour grapes and you don't need that. We've gone there and won a game of football, then people are looking for other things to moan and groan about. I was really disappointed with him for bringing him up afterwards.
"Thank goodness nothing was made of it because there was nothing there. I didn't see it, did you? There were enough cameras there to have picked it up. The disappointing thing for me was that another manager after the game is trying to find something that could affect this football club and this club has nothing to do with him."
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Sticking with West Brom's personnel - they had some good news on Thursday when defender Craig Dawson signed a new contract. The 25-year-old may not be in the squad today, but he has become an integral part of the team following his arrival from Rochdale in 2011.
After putting pen to paper, Dawson told the club's official website: "I was really pleased to be able to extend my contract here, and that will take it until the summer of 2018. I'm really enjoying my football, especially over the last year and a half when I've been a regular in the first team. I feel like I've developed as a player over that period and I just want to continue on with that.
"I've been down here a few years now, the family is settled in this area, so it was a very easy decision to extend my contract. It means I can just concentrate on playing and doing everything I can to stay in the team and carry on contributing to things."
So, how did West Brom get to this stage? Their first game in the competition was a third-round tie at home to Bristol City and it was not a straightforward one. Berahino gave the Baggies the lead in the 67th minute, but Jonathan Kodjia gave Bristol a lifeline seven minutes later. West Brom looked to be heading out of the competition when Kieran Agard struck seven minutes from time, but James Morrison earned his side a replay in stoppage time.
The replay at Ashton Gate was more straightforward as Salomon Rondon scored the only goal of the game in the 52nd minute, but it was a similar struggle in the fourth round against Peterborough United at The Hawthorns. Berahino scored a second on the night to cancel out Shaquile Coulthirst's equaliser, but Jon Taylor gave Peterborough hope by finding the back of the net in the 86th minute.
The Baggies were given another test in the replay as it was all square at 1-1 after extra time and penalties ensued. Thankfully for West Brom, they sealed a 4-3 win in the shootout and progressed into the fifth round. Given the team's campaign so far, it wouldn't be a surprise if another replay came out of today's match!
Pulis's side head into the game on the back of a 1-0 win over Everton in the Premier League. That result ended a run of five league games without a win and now the club sit eight points above the relegation zone.
Let's turn our attention to Reading now, shall we? Brian McDermott
's side have had a less-than-enjoyable time in the Championship of late having gone six consecutive games without a win. The Royals have lost just two of those fixtures, but have recorded draws in the remaining four. In fact, the last two games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Reading have ended goalless.
With regards to their FA Cup campaign, Reading played Huddersfield Town away in the third round. The team went 1-0 down early in the second half, but Matej Vydra found an equaliser in the 71st minute before Hal Robson-Kanu struck what seemed to be a winner three minutes from time. It was not the end, though, as Nahki Wells scored a 92nd penalty to earn a replay.
It was a dramatic replay at the Madejski as a total of seven goals were scored, with Vydra netting a hat-trick, and Jonathan Hogg was sent off for Huddersfield. In the end, Reading sealed a 5-2 victory to reach the fourth round of the competition. It was an easier affair at home to Walsall as Vydra scored twice and Robson-Kanu and Danny Williams also added to the scoresheet in a 4-0 triumph.
Ahead of this game, McDermott told Reading Player
: "The Premier League is where we all want to be, these [West Brom] players are there week in week out, so we want to meet that challenge.
"We have got a little bit of [FA Cup] history here, last season this club was in the semi-final against Arsenal and there was a chance we could have got to the final, so let's see how far we can go.
"We are getting closer [to Wembley], we are looking forward to this game. It is really important that we enjoy the occasion we are playing in and that we try to get through."
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HEAD TO HEAD: In the last three FA Cup matches between the teams, two of them have been forced into replays and extra time. The Madejski is not a happy hunting ground for West Brom as they have not won there since January 1995. From that date onwards, they have drawn four and lost six of the meetings between the pair. The last time that the clubs met in the fifth round of the FA Cup was in February 2010, when Reading secured a 3-2 win in extra time in a replay.
We're just three minutes away from kickoff! On paper, West Brom should secure their place in the quarter-finals, but we all know, upsets are regularly caused in the FA Cup!
KICKOFF! We're underway at the Madejski!
It's been a patient start from both sides, with neither causing too much of an attacking threat as yet. It's worth noting that the pitch at the Madejski is not in perfect condition, so we may be lacking some fluid football this afternoon!
The Baggies win the first corner of the game, but it does very little to trouble Al-Habsi as Reading stay solid in defence and clear the ball comfortably.
It has become much livelier from both sides as the teams have upped the tempo. Rakels moves wide to the left to collect the ball from Obita. The forward then crosses the ball into the box, but it's easily collected by Foster.
There's not been too much to shout about I'm afraid. Brunt has got himself in various good positions to send in crosses into the area for the Baggies, but none of his teammates have latched on.
West Brom are called on to defend as Reading have a decent spell in possession. Both Norwood and Obita send crosses into the area, but the Premier League side are able to clear the danger.
CHANCE! A nervy moment for West Brom as Olsson miskicks a clearance in the box and the ball drops to Cox, who is too slow to get his shot away.
Berahino wins his team a free kick 25 yards from goal after getting clipped on the ankles. Brunt stands over the ball and aims for goal, but his attempt flies over the crossbar.
Reading launch an attack down the left with Cox and Quinn, who link up well before the former finds some space. Cox whips a cross in, but it doesn't go further than the edge of the box due to West Brom;s defence.
Unfortunately there has not been too much to report! Neither side have been able to take a stronghold in this game, and considering how the match is panning out, I wouldn't be surprised if we get another replay! West Brom have had to replay both of their games in this competition so far.
McClean tries to make things happen for West Brom as he drives down the field and attempts a cross into the danger area, but Gunter tracks his opponent's run and makes a decent block.
There is a lack of movement up front for the Baggies as Berahino has dropped deep and Rondon is on his own. The forward has had very little service this afternoon.
CHANCE! Reading create the first real goalscoring opportunity of the game as Cox lays the ball off to McShane on the edge of the box. The defender unleashes a strike, but his effort just drifts wide of the post.
Oh dear. An embarrassing moment for Reading pair Cox and Quinn as a one-two ends up bobbling behind the line for a goal kick.
The visitors get a good opportunity to break the deadlock after being awarded a free kick in Reading's half. The ball is crossed into the box from Brunt, but it's not one of his best deliveries as Al-Habsi comfortably snatches the ball from the air.
At the other end, Reading get a free kick, which is taken by Norwood. The midfielder gets the ball in the box, but Foster punches clear.
Quinn and Rakels link up well on the left after Obita's cross into the box gets cleared. The pair try to wiggle their way through, but it's not to be and the play breaks down.
SAVE! Foster has work to do! For the first time in this match, a goalkeeper makes a save! Norwood's cross into the box finds Robson-Kanu, who drills a shot at goal, but West Brom's goalkeeper does his job and clears.
The game is more open now as both sides are getting on the frontfoot, but the half is likely to end goalless as neither are making the most of their plays.
HALF-TIME: READING 0-0 WEST BROM
The half-time whistle blows and I'm sure the fans and the players will be happy about that! In all honesty, it's been a drab affair at the Madejski with minimal goalscoring opportunities. Of all people, Reading defender Paul McShane came close to scoring from the edge of the box, but his effort went wide. Ben Foster made the first save of the game in the closing stages of the first half, but in all, it's been a rather lacklustre display. Hopefully the second half will provide more entertainment! We'll rejoin you then!
RESTART! Reading get the second half underway! Will there be a winner or are we destined for a replay? We have 45 minutes to find out!
Reading have returned from the half-time break on the frontfoot. Gunter surges down the right flank in a bid to keep the ball from going out and he manages to force Olsson to send the ball out for a corner, which comes to nothing for the home side.
At the other end, West Brom show intent as they win two quick corners. The second is delivered into the box from Brunt, but McShane is there to hook the ball away.
Sessegnon uses his quick feet by cutting inside before sending a cross into the danger area. McShane is the first to get to the ball, but it's not a convincing clearance as he turns the ball over the crossbar.
GOAL! READING 0-1 WEST BROM (FLETCHER)
Finally, we have a goal! This second half has been much improved from the first and it's West Brom who have broken the deadlock. Darren Fletcher is the man to put the Baggies in front and he did so by moving into acres of space on the edge of the box before striking the ball across goal and into the bottom corner.
Perhaps we won't be getting a replay after all! Pulis must have given quite the team talk as his team have had much more dominance on the ball since coming out for the second half. Now it;s up to Reading to respond.
GOAL! READING 1-1 WEST BROM (MCSHANE)
Just a few minutes after I claim that we might avoid a replay, Reading get back on level terms! It's the skipper Paul McShane who has given the Royals some hope as he headed home from close range.
READING SUBS: Prior to the goal, Reading made substitutions as Cox made way for Vydra and Rakels was taken off the pitch and replaced with John.
It's much more livelier now! Sessegnon picks out McClean in the box and the midfielder aims for the goal, but his attempt is blocked by Cooper.
The game has calmed down somewhat, but West Brom seem more comfortable on the ball as they retain possession well and keep themselves tight at the back.
Reading are struggling to find a way through, so they another approach by shooting from distance. Norwood goes for glory with a low 25-yard effort, but the ball misses the target and goes out for a goal kick.
GOAL! READING 2-1 WEST BROM (HECTOR)
Reading come from behind to lead! Just as West Brom looked to be in control of the game, they have been undone by Michael Hector! The goal comes from a set piece and the defender latches onto Norwood's delivery before nodding the ball into the back post.
WEST BROM SUB: Pulis makes his first change of the game as McClean makes way for Anichebe. The Baggies need to turn this around otherwise they face an FA Cup exit!
CHANCE! Reading want more goals! Robson-Kanu sends the ball towards the ball post to John, who is well positioned to strike, but the winger's first touch lets him down and the opportunity goes missing.
Chester is yelling for a penalty after the ball stroked Hector's arm, but the referee waves away his claims, and he's fair to do so because a penalty would have been harsh on the Royals.
WEST BROM SUB: It's another change for the visiting side as Sandro is replaced with Pritchard. The Baggies are running out of time!
CHANCE! What a waste from West Brom! Fletcher receives the ball while unmarked at the back post, but he aims the ball into the arms of the keeper.
West Brom are piling on the pressure in these closing stages. Sessegnon unleashes a shot with his first touch on the right side of the box, but his attempt soars over the crossbar.
GOAL! READING 3-1 WEST BROM (PIAZON)
Well, that's definitely wrapped it up as Piazon hammers the ball into the net from inside the box after being on the field for just over one minute.
FULL-TIME: READING 3-1 WEST BROM
So, there we have it - Reading are in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup! The Championship side have beaten West Brom 3-1 thanks to goals from Paul McShane, Michael Hector and Lucas Piazon
. Darren Fletcher put the Baggies ahead in the second half, but the team were unable to build on it and were ultimately punished. Thank you for joining us this afternoon, and until next time, goodbye!