News and Views

Wednesday And Reading Hope To Stay In Top Six

16 March 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The run of tough away fixtures against play-off and promotion rivals continues with a trip to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday evening. The Royals travel to Sheffield after recent away defeats at Preston, Brighton and Huddersfield. Those three defeats, in which Reading have failed to score a goal, have cast Reading's promotion hopes into serious doubt with the Royals now just three points inside the play-off positions. Fulham, one place outside the play-offs, are hoping to sneak into sixth place at the expense of either the Royals or Wednesday. All the games are crucial at this stage of the season, but another away defeat for Reading could have serious consequences on a top six finish.

Reading have only won two games out of their last eight - that's hardly the form of a promotion chasing side. Away from home we have picked up just a single point from our last four attempts. The only consolation for Reading is that Sheffield Wednesday's recent form is so similar. The form for both sides in the league reads two defeats, a win and a draw, followed by another defeat. While Reading were losing 0-3 at Preston last weekend, the Owls were losing 0-2 at Aston Villa. However Wednesday's last two home games have been a 5-1 win over Norwich City and a 1-1 draw with Burton Albion. The Royals will need a change in their form away from the Madejski to get anything from this. If Reading are beaten on the road again they are likely to be the only team in the top ten with a negative goal difference.

Jaap Stam may happily state that the plan was never to get promoted this season, but having been in the play-off positions for most of the season, it will still be a huge disappointment to drop out of the top six on the final run in. Reading were third in the table for ages before the recent drop in form. The outside chance of automatic promotion has long gone but Reading should still remain favourites for a play-off finish.

After a poor defensive performance at Preston, Stam may have both Liam Moore and Paul McShane available for selection. Moore has been out injured and McShane was replaced after 73 minutes at Preston - giving Reece Oxford some rare time on the pitch. Stam's changes this week will probably be in defence, but there are question marks in midfield where Liam Kelly could be back in the side after being rested. George Evans was an unused substitute last weekend and is another option. For the home side striker Forestieri is expected to miss out through injury and defender Vincent Sasso will definately be ruled out as he begins his suspension.

Recent Meetings With Sheffield Wednesday

DATE COMPETITION OPPOSITION SCORE REPORT
10 December 2016 Championship Sheff Wed (HOME) W: 2-1 Read report...
23 January 2016 Championship Sheff Wed (HOME) D: 1-1 Read report...
19 August 2015 Championship Sheff Wed (Away) D: 1-1 Read report...
31 January 2015 Championship Sheff Wed (HOME) W: 2-0 Read report...
20 September 2014 Championship Sheff Wed (Away) L: 0-1 Read report...
08 February 2014 Championship Sheff Wed (HOME) L: 0-2 Read report...
02 November 2013 Championship Sheff Wed (Away) L: 2-5 Read report...
27 February 2010 Championship Sheff Wed (HOME) W: 5-0 Read report...
05 December 2009 Championship Sheff Wed (Away) W: 2-0 Read report...
03 March 2009 Championship Sheff Wed (Away) W: 2-1 Read report...
16 September 2008 Championship Sheff Wed (HOME) W: 6-0 Read report...

Sheffield Wednesday vs Reading preview

16 March 2017
By Eddie Gallagher

In this match preview special we partnered up with Eddie Gallagher, Championship and Premier League editor at FootballPredictions.com, to give you some insights on the upcoming match. Sheffield Wednesday and Reading face each other at legendary Hillsborough Stadium in the opening game of Matchday 38. Both sides sit in the play-offs berth, meaning that a close encounter appears on the horizon.

Hillsborough Stadium - the fortress

Sheffield Wednesday are eager to return to the Premier League, but, as things stand now, they are unlikely to secure automatic promotion to the English top flight. The Owls, though, are on the right track to book their place in the Championship play-offs, but the season is quite long and they must take every single game very seriously if they are to finish the 2016/2017 campaign in top six. Sheffield Wednesday crushed Norwich City (5-1) in their penultimate home fixture in the English second tier, with experienced attacker Jordan Rhodes scoring twice against Alex Neil's troops. Rhodes aims to add more goals to his account and he is likely to pose a big threat for the opposition defenders in Friday's clash. Carlos Carvalhal's men have been impressive at their Hillsborough Stadium so far this season and it has to be noted that they are eyeing their 13th home win.

Last win at Wednesday back in 2009

Reading coach and former Dutch centre-back Jaap Stam is on a quest to bring glory days back to Madejski Stadium. The Royals sit in the play-offs places ahead of the trip to Sheffield, but their job is half-done. Reading are on a six-game unbeaten run at home ground and they did well to hold Newcastle United to a goalless draw in their last home fixture. Nonetheless, their away record is anything but impressive and, no doubt, the visitors would be happy with one point from Friday's showdown against Wednesday. Jaap Stam's team recorded their last win at Hillsborough Stadium back in 2009 and considering that the Owls are tough to beat at home, I do not believe that the Royals are capable of putting an end to the negative trend. When the two teams met at Madejski Stadium earlier this season Reading emerged triumphant, with Roy Beerens scoring a brace for the hosts. Former Bournemouth attacker Yann Kermorgant is widely expected to lead the attack for the visitors against Sheffield. The Frenchman is the team's top scorer, meaning that the opposition back-line should have him at bay.

Prediction

Both Sheffield Wednesday and Reading are desperate to book their place in the Championship play-offs and many football predictions suggest that both sides will go for a win in Friday's derby. As we have already mentioned, the Owls have turned their Hillsborough Stadium into a real fortress and they are likely to find the net on Matchday 38. However, seeing that Carlos Carvalhal's men failed to keep a clean sheet in previous four home games in the league, we predict that the Royals will score in the Hillsborough Stadium clash as well. You should bear in mind that both teams found the net in each of their last three meetings in the English second tier. There is plenty of decisive matches coming up in this round of the Championship. You can find more of Galllagher and his team's work on https://footballpredictions.com/footballpredictions/championshippredictions/

Reading Aim To Remove Preston From Play Off Race

10 March 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The tough games against teams at the top of the Championship continue to arrive at a fast rate for the Royals. Having secured a useful point at home to table toppers Newcastle United mid-week, this weekend Reading have a really good chance to effectively eliminate Preston North End from the play-off race. With 10 League games of the season remaining, Preston are 11 points behind the Royals in ninth place. A Reading victory would surely end any realistic chance Preston have of taking a play-off place from the Royals - and take Reading one huge step closer to a top six finish. However, as is always the way, a win for Preston would see Reading looking nervously at the chasing pack as they close the gap on sixth spot.

Jaap Stam's choice for starting eleven really is anyone's guess. It changes every week and he certainly doesn't like to be predictable with players out of position and those who'd you'd expect to be playing left out on the bench. Liam Moore has been excellent all season for Reading but will have to miss out after picking up a hamstring injury and limping off on Tuesday night. The arrival of Jordan Obita off the bench against Newcastle coincided with a strong finish to the game from Reading. Obita is clearly a better left back than Blackett - so the obvious choice is Blackett to move into the middle to replace the injured Moore and Obita to be recalled to the starting eleven on the left. However, Stam may have other plans.

Liam Kelly only managed the first half against Newcastle before being substituted. It appeared tactical but Stam hinted it was due to a hamstring issue. Either way he may find himself swapped out for the trip to Preston. Kelly is another player who has been excellent this season but wasn't his best against the Magpies on Tuesday.

Preston have only lost once in the League in their last seven games. That was a 1-3 reverse at Fulham who are rapidly closing in on Reading and the top six. Those last seven games may have only included 3 wins, but all of those have come at home. In the whole of 2017 Preston have only dropped two points at home over five league games and will be hoping to continue that run - and in doing so keep their season alive. Reading have only picked up one point from their last three away games - although that did include defeats at Huddersfield and Brighton. The last time the two sides met was on the opening day of the season when Preston were defeated 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium thanks to a debut goal from John Swift.

Recent Meetings With Preston North End

DATE COMPETITION OPPOSITION SCORE REPORT
06 August 2016 Championship Preston (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
30 April 2016 Championship Preston (HOME) L: 1-2 Read report...
12 December 2015 Championship Preston (Away) L: 0-1 Read report...
05 April 2011 Championship Preston (HOME) W: 2-1 Read report...
02 October 2010 Championship Preston (Away) D: 1-1 Read report...
02 May 2010 Championship Preston (HOME) W: 4-1 Read report...
29 September 2009 Championship Preston (Away) W: 2-1 Read report...
07 February 2009 Championship Preston (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
18 October 2008 Championship Preston (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...

Reading 0 Newcastle United 0: Things We Learned

08 March 2017
By Alex Bower

If the build-up to Tuesday's game was anything to go by, it was a biggun. Reading FC were taking on fellow promotion hopefuls Newcastle United, both arriving at the Madejski Stadium with the aim of securing three points.

Despite shots from both sides rebounding off the goalposts, the score was to end 0-0 and the points shared. Here are some things to come out of the game.

Possession Play On Point

From the off it was clear what the Newcastle tactics were- sit back and try and hit Reading on the counter. On several occasions in the first half, it nearly worked. As the game went on, however, Reading were dominating play in terms of possession. The most impressive aspect was that, despite playing against one of the top two teams in the division, the Royals remained composed right up until the final whistle. At full-time Reading had maintained 70% possession.

While shooting opportunities were at a minimum, it was encouraging to see Reading performing so well. Paul McShane and Joey van den Berg put in performance to remember (for all the right reasons) and Garath McCleary will feel disappointed to have not snatched the win at the death.

At times the possession style of football can be boring to watch (to the point where it feels time is moving slower than normal) but that was not the case on Tuesday.

Thanks For The Atmosphere

Much has been said in recent times about the attendances at the Madejski Stadium in support of a team chasing promotion. Largely they have been disappointing but that was not the case against Newcastle.

The fans heard Jaap Stam's comments about needing their support loud and clear and turned up in their droves. The large turnout from Newcastle fans was definitely a help, with a call and respond rapport often being built between the rival fan bases.

It has to be said that the atmosphere created by the home fans was noticeably better than usual. As if recognising the importance of the game, the supporters got behind their team throughout and it was great to hear.

Against such a large club like Newcastle, the 23,000 attendance was always inevitable even on a weekday evening. It is now important to make sure that similar crowds turnout to games against Leeds, Blackburn, Rotherham and Wigan.

Life Without Liam

It was not a good day if you were a Reading player named Liam.

Liam Kelly has emerged this season as a very promising player for the Royals. It was a disappointing performance from the midfielder, however, as he increasingly gave away possession.

Many will have assumed that his half-time substitution was due to his performance but he has apparently picked up a hamstring injury. The most concerning moment of the game was when Liam Moore dropped to the ground with what also appeared to be a hamstring injury.

The "Player of the Month" for February has been vital for the Royals in the centre of defence throughout the season. With McShane only recently returning to the squad himself and Tiago Ilori still out, it is less than ideal ahead of what will be a very important run of games.

What To Do About Grabban

One player who seems to be getting a lot of stick on social media is Lewis Grabban. The Bournemouth man has not set the world alight since his arrival in January and it has not gone unnoticed amongst the fans.

The issue with the striker is that he is not playing consistently and when he is he is often being asked to play in all kinds of weird and wonderful places. As a central midfielder or a winger, he has struggled to make an impact. Up front by himself he has also come up short.

Everyone knows about the partnership that Grabban and Yann Kermorgant developed while playing for the Cherries. The reality of the situation at Reading, however, is that nine times out of ten Jaap will play a formation that has room for only one striker.

Against Newcastle I was surprised to see Grabban playing on the wing ahead of natural wingers such as Adrian Popa, Roy Beerens or Yakou Meite. I will be even more surprised if he features there in the next game.