West Brom stretch lead at top of Championship with hard-earned win at Reading

West Brom stretched their lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship to six points with a hard-earned 2-1 win at mid-table Reading.

Albion dominated most of the first half but needed a 26th-minute equaliser from Matheus Pereira to cancel out George Puscas’ early opener for Reading from a penalty.

Kyle Bartley, who had conceded the earlier spot-kick, gave Albion the lead four minutes after the break and the visitors were fairly comfortable for the rest of the game.

West Brom had not won on eight previous visits to the Madejski and made a sluggish start on their latest appearance.

Yakou Meite, Reading’s nine-goal top scorer, was allowed a free run from midfield but then blazed high over the crossbar.

Albion responded immediately, with Filip Krovinovic sending an effort wide from 20 yards.

Hal Robson-Kanu, the former Reading winger, nodded narrowly over before Albion almost went ahead.

Krovinovic’s powerful drive was only half-saved by home goalkeeper Rafael, the ball then bouncing up on to the crossbar and away to safety.

Reading took advantage of their good fortune by going in front in the 11th minute.

Bartley strangely raised an arm to handle a John Swift corner, with referee Matt Donohue pointing to the spot and booking the Albion defender.

Puscas coolly stroked home his eighth goal of the season from the penalty spot.

Albion took a while to fashion a positive reply but drew level a quarter of an hour later.

Rafael saved smartly from Pereira’s initial attempt, from a Callum Robinson cross, but could do nothing to stop Pereira’s follow-up from close range.

Rafael was kept busy, with vital saves from Jake Livermore and Krovinovic before the interval and Krovinovic again early in the second period.

Robinson also shuddered the home crossbar from 20 yards prior to Albion deservedly going ahead five minutes into the half.

Krovinovic crossed from the left after his corner had been partially cleared, and the unmarked Bartley looped a header over Rafael.

Albion continued to press for a third goal but were hampered by wayward finishing.

Reading threatened only on the occasional break, with Swift squandering a good opening when opting to pass instead of shooting.

Meite headed in towards the end, from a Charlie Adam cross, but it was ruled out for offside and Albion held on with ease for a third successive win.