Under-21s boss Richard Beale took over whilst the managerial search goes on, and today they had to travel to a Reading side who occupy a play-off spot. The Royals remain there despite a sensational away victory for the Baggies, which made a mockery of the form book.
Whilst there were a few star performers for Beale this afternoon, and despite surrendering 58% of the ball to Reading, it was Taylor Gardner-Hickman whose clinical quality won them the match.
Despite Matt Phillips being the man to open the scoring, earning a SofaScore rating of 7.0, he was far outplayed by the youngster, who was handed the second-highest rating of anyone on the field with 8.0.
The versatile gem was deployed in central midfield alongside Jake Livermore in a 3-4-3 system, and in addition to teeing up Phillips for the opener, he also managed to nab a goal himself to secure the result.
His insistence on creating was outlined in the fact that he lost the ball 18 times, suggesting that he often came up short in pursuit of that killer ball.
The 20-year-old, who has previously been dubbed “a cut above the rest” and “menacing” by journalists Joe Ellis and Alex Dickens respectively, showed once again why he has earned these plaudits in the past. However, it was the youngster’s defensive work which truly made him shine today.
Gardner-Hickman won seven tackles this afternoon, also making three interceptions in midfield. He was everywhere on the pitch, and the fact that his two goal contributions came despite his team having less of the ball than their opponents further outlines his proficiency.
When West Brom really needed someone to step up and be a hero to end their miserable run, it was an academy graduate who stole the show with an immense performance.