Valerien Ismael wanted West Brom’s game postponed after Covid-19 outbreak

The Baggies were made to play and won 1-0.

By Press Association Published: 11 December 2021 - 6.44pm

West Brom head coach Valerien Ismael revealed the club had asked for their game against Reading to be postponed because of a Covid-19 outbreak before beating the Royals 1-0 at The Hawthorns.

Callum Robinson’s 61st-minute goal separated the sides but getting a team onto the pitch was the initial success for Ismael after Albion were without four players who tested positive for the virus.

Defenders Matt Clarke, Conor Townsend and Semi Ajayi have Covid while midfielder Grady Diangana was ill and also missed the game.

Albion’s bench was full of academy players apart from goalkeeper David Button.

“We tried to postpone the game but the EFL forced us to play,” said Ismael.

“It wasn’t only positive cases – some had symptoms as well. We explained to the EFL and the doctor from the EFL said it was an outbreak but they forced us to play.

“I’m more than proud and I congratulate the guys. You can’t imagine what a very difficult week this has been.

“Every day a player came in with symptoms and tested negative then tested positive.

“There were staff members as well and other people who work at the club.

“It was a very difficult week to manage and after the press conference on Friday, we had another two positive cases.

“We didn’t want to complain or look for excuses. We accepted the challenge and we got our reward.”

Successive victories have lifted Albion to within three points of second-placed Bournemouth and Ismael believes the win in such challenging circumstances could be a catalyst for them.

“After a difficult week it could be a massive push for us,” he added.

“When you consider the circumstances, it was a great win, that’s for sure, but even more for the players to create that mentality.”

Albion dominated but had to be content with Robinson’s fourth strike of the season when he flicked home Karlan Grant’s cross.

But the hosts missed chances galore, with Robinson and Grant wasting two each.

Reading manager Veljko Paunovic was critical of his team’s lack of control and their finishing.

“It was not a great first half, but we did have a great chance to take the lead,” said Paunovic.

“I didn’t like that we had so little possession, but we have to be much more clinical and ruthless.

“In the second half we looked better, but we still left them too much space to come in and easily execute the goal.

“Overall, it wasn’t a bad performance but it was definitely not the result we were looking for.”

Reading were without experienced players such as Andy Yiadom, John Swift and Danny Drinkwater due to injury and admitted they were lacking in quality.

“We missed important players and we had a lack of power,” he said.

“There were some good individual performances but we need to put all the pieces together.”

The result left Reading just two points above the relegation zone but Paunovic is refusing to focus on anything but positives.

“I think the mentality I see here is always negative. I’m talking about the environment,” he insisted.

“But we have no time or room for negativity. We are where we are and we know why we are where we are. We also know what we have to do, so there is no room for negativity.”

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