Koren and Mattock rise above trouble in team effort
Kébé 1, Church 73
WEST BROMWICH 2
Koren 18, Mattock 87
A DRAW in the FA Cup against a team 20 places below you in the Championship may not obviously be cause for much celebration, but for West Bromwich Albion relief and joy emerged in what was a glorious and chaotic fifthround tie.
The Baggies are still in the mix for a quarter-final spot, which they may not have thought likely after conceding a goal, scored by Jimmy Kebe after nine seconds, one of the fastest in the history of the competition. Apart from the fact of forcing a replay there was personal satisfaction for the visiting goalscorers.
Robert Koren and Joe Mattock have both had their difficulties this season, obscured somewhat by the fact that Roberto di Matteo’s side are mounting a genuine challenge not just for promotion, but to win the Championship title.
But Koren and Mattock have both been playing under something of a cloud. The former has fallen out with Di Matteo. However, an injury in the warm-up to Andy Slory meant an opportunity that the Slovenian midfielder grabbed gratefully, scoring from a yard and coming close to a second when he hit the post.
Koren, who will face England in the World Cup this summer, said: “The last situation went into the press (where Di Matteo called Koren ‘selfish’) before he spoke with me. But afterwards we spoke about it and we put it behind us. He’s professional, I’m professional and we both want to do what’s best for the team and win promotion to the Premier League.”
Relations were so bad that Koren’s Hawthorns last month, although a parting of the ways still looks likely in the summer. A good showing in the World Cup would certainly help him.
Mattock, the left-back, scored the game’s best goal, picking his spot from 15 yards with three minutes to go, his first for the club he joined last summer from Leicester City. Since September the 19-year-old, whose strike came after Simon Church’s breakaway goal, has had assault charges against two men and two women hanging over him.
Di Matteo said Mattock had reacted well since the autumn. “He’s been fine, to be honest. You can’t really tell that he’s got anything going on off the pitch. I don’t think it’s kept his mind too busy.”
Chris Foy, the referee, was busy, sending off Shane Long for a lunge on Abdoulaye Meite, who then limped off, and the forward will miss the replay during his four-game ban. West Bromwich were only a man up for 13 minutes, as Youssouf Mulumbu, a substitute, was similarly reckless, earning two yellow cards in 13 minutes. Buckle up for the replay.
Reading (4-5-1): Federici; Griffin, Ingimarsson, Mills, Bertrand; McAnuff, Karacan (Tabb, 80), Gunnarsson, Howard (Church, 49), Kébé (Rasiak, 63); Long. Substitutes not used: Henry, Robson-Kanu, Hamer, Pearce
West Bromwich (4-1-4-1): Carson; Zuiverloon, Méité (Tamas, 52), Olsson, Mattock; Jara (Mulumbu, h/t); Brunt, Cox, Koren, Dorrans; Bednar. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Moore, Wood, Mantom Booked: Reading Howard; West Bromwich Tamas. Sent off: Long (48); Mulumbu (61)
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).
Man of the match: Koren.