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Clarke justified

Steve Clarke defended his decision to drop West Brom's leading scorer Shane Long after seeing the Ireland striker's replacement, Romelu Lukaku, score the winner yesterday.

Clarke left out out Long against his former club but the Tipperary man came off the bench to tee up the second half winner for on-loan Chelsea striker Lukaku.

Victory lifted Baggies into third spot in the league with 10 points from their opening five games. "Shane has been terrific for me this season and it was a difficult decision to leave him out. I just thought Lukaku had been very patient waiting for his chance from the bench," said Clarke.

"I also felt I was always asking Shane to do the horrible shift which is the first hour, where he runs and chases and defenders are still fresh. I thought it would benefit Shane to go on as the fresh player for a change, and thankfully, it worked."

Lukaku had also scored as a substitute in the 3-0 win over Liverpool, and Clarke is aware he could return to Stamford Bridge in January if he maintains his fine form.

"Lukaku is here on a season-long loan but I would imagine there is a recall clause in the agreement. Any Premier League team who does a season-long loan usually has a January release clause," he said. "There's no point in worrying about things I can't affect. I'm just looking for Romelu to continue the fine form he's shown for us and score a few more goals."

Reading are still searching for their first league win, and manager Brian McDermott stressed the need for unity.

"It was frustrating. We spoke at half-time and said whatever happens keep a clean sheet and the goal was disappointing from our point of view," said McDermott. "You never want to be bottom of any league. All we can do is stick together."

Sunday Indo Sport