Reading Football Club News: April 2017

Royals On Verge Of Play-Off Finish Despite Defeat

26 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Despite Saturday's 2-3 defeat at Nottingham Forest, Reading need just a single point from their final two matches in order to guarantee a play-off position finish. However, even two defeats for Reading is likely to see the Royals finish inside the top six for a shot at promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs.

With Leeds United in seventh place sitting six points behind Reading, the Royals could get away with two defeats if Leeds fail to pick up maximum points in their final two games, or if Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday slip up. Reading are helped by Sheffield Wednesday facing Fulham at home on the final day of the season meaning at least one team will be dropping points before the season wraps up. With Leeds in poor form after four defeats in their last six games, Reading fans could well be celebrating early whatever happens this weekend.

Brighton and Newcastle United have already taken the two automatic promotion places with Brighton on the verge of being crowned as Champions. Meanwhile Huddersfield secured a top six finish with a 1-0 away win at Wolves on Tuesday night. That result leaves the final three play-off positions up for grabs with four teams attempting to claim a place. Reading have a big advantage as they sit in fourth place, points ahead of everyone else. Reading's terrible goal difference means that the safest route is to pick up a point or three this weekend as Wigan visit the Madejski Stadium. If Reading can do that then all other results become irrelevant and Reading can look forward to extending their season with a game spare.

With the play-offs now within easy reach, attention turns to who Reading might face in the play-off semi-finals to judge our chances of another trip to Wembley. As with previous seasons, the Championship's third placed team will face sixth and the fourth placed team will play fifth. It may appear to be a big advantage to finish third, fourth or fifth to get a potentially winnable game over the two legs. Two wins for Reading in the regular season would secure either third or fourth place and would see us almost certainly avoid Huddersfield Town for starters. However, perhaps Huddersfield Town wouldn't be a bad team to face after our games this season and Huddersfield's minor dip in form towards the end of the season. Perhaps it's Fulham we need to avoid who could well finish sixth?

Reading have won at home and lost away at all sides that can finish in the top six - with the exception of Sheffield Wednesday who we managed to pick up the maximum six points from. Against Huddersfield we won 1-0 at home and lost 0-1 away, giving an "aggregate" score of 1-1. Our big 0-5 defeat away at Fulham means they had a better goal difference over the two games with Reading this term. We beat Leeds United 1-0 at home but were defeated 0-2 at their place, again giving Leeds the edge.

At this stage, with all the teams so equally matched and with no stand out contenders, it really does feel that Reading have a one in four chance of winning the play-offs at this stage. If you take a look at how bookmakers rate the likelihood of a Royals promotion you'll find some close odds as you might expect. At the start of March Huddersfield looked like they might catch up the top two before dropping off the pace, and they would have been firm favourites for promotion alongside Brighton and Newcastle. That's no longer the case, and the form table might hold more answers. It could be Sheffield Wednesday that we need to keep a close eye on now after a run of five straight league wins that included victory over Newcastle United. Fulham are also on a good run after four Championship wins in a row.

To give us the best chance of promotion we need to get some momentum going again - starting with a victory over Wigan Athletic on Saturday afternoon. Not only would it secure our play-off finish but it could take us back to third and give the side a huge confidence boost ahead of play-off games with such massive financial significance.

Remaining Games for the Play-off Contenders

Reading (4th, 79 points):

  • 29 April: Wigan Athletic (H)
  • 7 May: Burton Albion (A)

Sheffield Wednesday (5th, 78 points):

  • 29 April: Ipswich Town (A)
  • 7 May: Fulham (H)

Fulham (6th, 76 points):

  • 29 April: Brentford (H)
  • 7 May: Sheffield Wednesday (A)

Leeds United (7th, 73 points):

  • 29 April: Norwich City (H)
  • 7 May: Wigan Athletic (A)

 

Championship Table at: 26 April 2017
  PlHWHDHLHFHAAWADALAFAAGDPOINTS
1Brighton 441732461311562725+3592 (P)
2Newcastle 441435462313453417+4088 (P)
3Huddersfield 441525342310482230+381
4READING441552341692112946+179
5Sheff Wed 44152535208772323+1578
6Fulham 441075443111653824+2776
7Leeds 441435291384102830+1473
8Norwich 441444512255122744+1266

Win Over Rotherham: Things We Learned

20 April 2017
By Alex Bower

Despite a troublesome first half, Reading edged ever closer to the play-offs with a 2-1 win over Rotherham. Tom Adeyemi gave the away side the lead in the opening twenty minutes after Ali Al-Habsi's initial save landed at his feet.

The Royals struggled to make any real breakthrough until the second-half, when substitute Lewis Grabban finished with a sweetly hit volley. Reading completed the turnaround with John Swift tapping in from close range.

Here are some of the talking points from the game.

A Tale Of Two Halves

If there was ever a game to epitomise the saying "a tale of two halves", this would be it. It has already been confirmed that Rotherham will be playing in League One next season, but in the opening spell it was Reading who looked like the team in trouble.

Other than Danny Williams, it looked as if the Reading players had not turned up. The play was lethargic and sadly the Royals were sinking to Rotherham's level. The endless time-wasting from Rotherham keeper Richard O'Donnell certainly was not helping matters but Reading only had themselves to blame for their performance.

The second-half in comparison was a completely different story. Liam Kelly was brought on at half-time in place of Yakou Meite and was the spark that Reading needed. With Rotherham dropping further back as the game went on, the Royals found themselves edging ever closer to finding the equaliser. Thankfully for the home side, goals from Grabban and Swift were enough to spare their blushes.

What A Difference A Goal Makes

Lewis Grabban has not had the best of starts to his Reading career. Fans had high hopes for the striker when he joined on loan from AFC Bournemouth back in January. Sadly he has not lived up to expectation so far; That was until Monday's game.

The striker finally scored his first goal for the club at the weekend - converting a penalty against Aston Villa. It is a well known theory that getting your first goal can often do you the world of good. If his goal against Rotherham is anything to go by, then Grabban is a completely different player to the one we have seen this year.

When Grabban was brought on as a winger, the immediate signs were not promising. However, fast forward to just after the hour mark and any fears subsided. After being picked out at the edge of the area, the striker finished with a powerful volley to level the score.

Reading fans will be hoping that this is only the start of his goalscoring run as he could be a very handy player to have firing if the Royals make the play-offs.

The Future Of Danny Williams

There was one standout player for the Royals, particularly during the first-half, and that was Danny Williams. While the rest of his teammates looked slow and hesitant, the central midfielder was constantly harassing the opposition and running the ball out of the Reading half.

It was the kind of performance that Reading fans have seen many times before from the American and one that they will certainly hope he continues to replicate until the end of the season. The main concern will be his contract status. The midfielder is one of the highest earners at the club and his contract runs out at the end of the season. Despite having talks with the club, Williams will inevitably be waiting to see which division the Royals are playing in next season before committing his future.

While there are some concerns with the consistency of his performances at times, games like Saturday's remind everyone what he is capable of and what he brings to the squad.

What Does Stam See In Beerens?

One player who continues to frustrate me is Roy Beerens. Yes he is capable of scoring exceptional goals, but his overall play and demeanour continue to be a concern.

The winger is a favourite with Jaap Stam but it is difficult from a fan perspective to see what he brings to the team - he does not like to defend, is easily forced off the ball, has recently been lacking an end product and spends a lot of his time floating around without actually offering an outlet.

When he first signed for the club, Beerens was a player that I thought could be a star player for Reading. Instead, he has been the source of much dissatisfaction.

Play-Offs Here We Come?

Reading pushed themselves up to third with their win against Rotherham and subsequently ever closer to a guaranteed place in the play-offs.

In his post-match interview, Jaap Stam commented on the booing from fans at half-time which he felt was directed towards his players. In the same interview he also mentioned how well the team were doing this year in comparison to previous years and subsequently how they did not deserve such a reaction.

Firstly it has to be said (in my opinion) the booing was directed towards the referee and the Rotherham players due to the time-wasting antics and tackles on Danny Williams. Stam does, however, have a point. The Reading team of this year are performing at a vastly higher standard than previous years and subsequently no fan will have been expecting to be so high up the table this year.

Stam has built a team that looks like it will continue to challenge for promotion and Reading fans will continue to enjoy the ride he has taken them on this season.

Reading Eventually Overcome Rotherham To Go Third

17 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The abysmal away record of already relegated Rotherham suggested this would be a routine home win for the Royals but they were sluggish from the start, and after going behind when Al Habsi spilled the ball from a header to Adeyemi in the nineteenth minute they struggled to break down their lowly opponents. Once again Jaap Stam confounded everyone with his team selection resting Mendes and leaving Kelly on the bench with Grabban after both had starred in a fine away win at Villa two days earlier. The introduction of Kelly at half time brought the missing spark in midfield and allowed Williams, who had fine game, to push forward; and with Meite's right wing berth taken by McCleary normal service was resumed. The stubborn visitors finally succumbed to a brilliant volley from substitute Grabban and an outstanding team goal finished off by Swift. It was vital win but really should have been more comfortable.
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Royals Go To Norwich After Three Straight Wins

07 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading travel to Norwich City this weekend after a run of three straight league wins that has made a play-off finish more likely than not. The Royals are now nine points clear of seventh placed Fulham with just six games of the season remaining. Any points at Norwich this weekend will go a long way towards making the play-offs a certainty, especially with home games against Wigan and Rotherham still to come for Reading. After a dip in form, the Royals seem to be coming good at just the right time as the season enters it's final stages. Norwich have been inconsistent all season and mid-table is now looking more likely for them.

The last time the two sides met was on Boxing Day at the Madejski Stadium when Reading were helped by Norwich midfielder Jonny Howson getting sent off shortly after the visitors had equalised to make it 1-1. McCleary stuck home the spot-kick rebound to make it 2-1 before Harriott wrapped up the three points with a late third goal for the Royals.

Harriott will be missing this time as he remains out through injury. Rakels is still yet to make an appearance after returning from injury and may be hoping to get some match action before the season wrap up. Paul McShane and Joey van den Berg may both be back available for selection but Stam may keep Tiago Ilori involved again after he returned from injury during Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over Blackburn. Jordan Obita could also miss out due to minor injury.

Norwich have let in five goals in their last two games, without scoring, and will have a big boost with defenders Mitchell Dijks and Ivo Pinto back in action. Both players have been out due to suspensions which ended after their 0-3 away defeat against Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night. Norwich have suffered with their away form but this promises to be a difficult game for the Royals.

At home Norwich are unbeaten in nine games, which has included some big wins and a 2-2 draw with table toppers Newcastle United. Norwich still have a slim chance of getting in the play-offs but that is looking increasingly unlikely. Should Norwich fail to beat Reading their season will effectively be over and caretaker manager Alan Irvine will probably be pleased to hand the reins over.

Recent Meetings With Norwich City

DATE COMPETITION OPPOSITION SCORE REPORT
26 December 2016 Championship Norwich (HOME) W: 3-1 Read report...
28 December 2014 Championship Norwich (HOME) W: 2-1 Read report...
29 November 2014 Championship Norwich (Away) W: 2-1 Read report...
20 April 2013 Premier League Norwich (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
10 November 2012 Premier League Norwich (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
12 February 2011 Championship Norwich (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
13 November 2010 Championship Norwich (HOME) D: 3-3 Read report...
27 April 2009 Championship Norwich (Away) W: 2-0 Read report...
13 December 2008 Championship Norwich (HOME) W: 2-0 Read report...

Victory Over Blackburn - Match Review

06 April 2017
By Alex Bower

Reading FC built upon their 1-0 win against Leeds at the weekend with a 3-1 victory against relegation candidates Blackburn Rovers. Yann Kermorgant picked up a brace in the opening half hour, with the Reading target man heading both past Jason Steele in the Blackburn goal. Elliott Bennett threatened to mount a second-half comeback for the away side thanks to his well taken volley but Garath McCleary put the result beyond any doubt only minutes later.

Here are some of the things to come out of the game:

Yann The Man

Yann Kermorgant has seemingly had plenty to say in recent times - first his "mind games" prior to the Leeds game where he spoke out about their over-reliance on Chris Wood then his retirement announcement.

Luckily for Reading, he has also had plenty to say out on the pitch - so much so he can be considered a vital member of the squad in the lead up to a critical period. If the Blackburn game showed anything it was what can happen when his teammates can deliver a decent ball into the box once in a while.

Swift Back To His Best

There was a concerning period after his injury when John Swift did not look like the player he was earlier in the season. The England U21 International has been a very important player for the Royals this year and has subsequently secured a place in the fans' hearts.

Thankfully for said fans, the midfielder seems to be back to his best at the opportune moment.

Still Room To Improve

No one can deny that Reading have been performing well above expectations this season. While that is the case, there were still some improvements that could have been made on Tuesday evening.

Blackburn Rovers are currently in the bottom three and largely performed like a team facing relegation. That said, rather than putting the game beyond any doubt, Reading let them back into the match and offered them far too many chances in front of goal.

Certain individuals also performed well below their capabilities - Jordon Mutch looked lost for large parts of the first half while even Garath McCleary had to laugh at his comical finishing (goal aside).

Whether it was due to the team changes prior to the game, substitutions during it or just a lack of concentration following a vital win against Leeds, there were some creases that will need ironing out for the last few fixtures.

Centre-Back Options

One of the many positives to take away from Tuesday's game is that Reading suddenly have options in the centre-back position again.

Jaap Stam opted with the ever-consistent Liam Moore and partnered him with Reece Oxford due to the injury to Paul McShane. While the absence of the Irishman is not ideal, Oxford looks like the real deal already. Another positive is the return of Tiago Ilori, who will be hoping to remain in the team until the end of the season.

As the games keep coming, having potentially too many defensive options can only be a good thing for the Royals.

Attendances

It's something that gets brought up time and time again but is a consistent issue at the Madejski Stadium - attendances.

The Leeds fixture understandably attracted a bumper crowd at the weekend. Not so many fans turned out, however, against Blackburn - 15,353 to be precise. Weekday fixtures do always tend to have smaller attendances but in a season that could potentially result in promotion, the team continue to deserve better.

Reading Up To Third With Win Over Blackburn

04 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading started the game with a confidence and swagger which comes from successive wins against good opposition and raced into a two goal lead within the first half an hour. Rovers looked a beaten side and the Royals appeared to take their foot off the gas. With nothing to lose Rovers made changes at half time and with a more offensive formation put Reading on the back foot. A superb long range strike from Bennett brought the visitors back into the game with around fifteen minutes left to play. Any hope a comeback were immediately extinguished when a minute later McCleary drilled the ball into the corner of the net. With Leeds and Fulham losing ground with defeats at Brentford and Derby respectively Reading's chances of reaching the play-offs took a significant step in the right direction.
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Reading Look To Continue Home Form Against Blackburn

04 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

With just seven games of the season remaining, Reading could realisically wrap up a play-off position finish if they can win all three of their remaining home fixtures. As it turns out the fixture computer has been kind to the Royals as they finish their home games with fixtures all against the bottom three. With Reading's impressive home form this season (only Brighton's is better), on paper these three home fixtures give Reading a perfect chance to pick up maximum points.

Reading start off with Blackburn Rovers tonight who are third from bottom of the Championship, before Rotherham (bottom) and Wigan Athletic (23rd) visit the Madejski Stadium. Rotherham, stranded at the foot of the table after eight straight defeats, are already relegated but Blackburn and Wigan will come to Reading desperate for points as they attempt to avoid the drop. It's often said that anyone can beat anyone else in the Championship and our visitor's need for points could be a big factor in producing some unexpected results. If Reading can keep their composure and grind out the results, then it is likely we can finish in the top six with minimum points away from the Madejski.

Tonight's visitors Blackburn's postition is misleading based on their recent form, after a weekend loss followed a run of 7 games without defeat. That impressive run, for a team anywhere in the table, was only ended by a single goal defeat on the road at Brighton - a team who are surely now set for automatic promotion to the Premier League. Blackburn find themselves just a single point away from moving out of the bottom three. A win for them at Reading would be a massive boost in their route to survival. Rovers have already picked up two 2-2 draws at Fulham and Norwich in March and Reading fans might fear they could repeat that or go one better tonight.

It should be difficult for Blackburn. Reading really are in fine form at home with 5 wins and 2 draws from the last 7. Our latest home win saw us move back to 4th with an impressive win over Leeds on Saturday, the Royals would move up to 3rd if they can dispatch Blackburn. Third placed Huddersfield face a tricky game against Norwich, who still have an outside chance of making the play-offs themselves, on Wednesday night. However, Reading supporters will be keeping a closer eye on the results of Fulham's trip to Derby and Sheffield Wednesday's trip to Rotherham tonight. If those teams drop points it will make it even easier for Reading to remain in the top six.

Joey van den Berg and centre-back Paul McShane both missed out against Leeds but may be considered this evening. Stam may be tempted to keep with his successful defensive line up from Saturday and give those two longer to recover. The win over Leeds, and a clean sheet, saw good performances all round helped out by Liam Kelly in the centre. Danny Williams limped off at the end on Saturday but is hoping to be fit enough to play tonight. It was Danny Williams that scored the only goal of the game the last time Blackburn came to town. Recent history had been very much in Blackburn's favour until that Reading win back in December 2015. Since then we went down 1-3 at Blackburn last season but won 3-2 at Ewood Park earlier this campaign with George Evans scoring a last minute winner to earn Reading the full three points.

Recent Meetings With BLACKBURN

DATE COMPETITION OPPOSITION SCORE REPORT
17 December 2016 Championship Blackburn (Away) W: 3-2 Read report...
07 May 2016 Championship Blackburn (Away) L: 1-3 Read report...
20 December 2015 Championship Blackburn (HOME) W: 1-0 Read report...
11 April 2015 Championship Blackburn (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
01 November 2014 Championship Blackburn (Away) L: 1-3 Read report...
22 February 2014 Championship Blackburn (HOME) L: 0-1 Read report...
23 November 2013 Championship Blackburn (Away) D: 0-0 Read report...

Huge Play-Off Finish Boost With Win Over Leeds

01 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

A strike of awesome power by Yan Kermorgant in the twenty-second minute was a goal worthy of winning this keenly contested battle between two teams destined for the play-offs. After tense opening Reading took control of the match with some of the best football seem at the Madejski Stadium this season. By half time the Royals should have had the game wrapped up.

Beerens and McCleary spurned good opportunities to extend their lead with only the 'keeper to beat and Kermorgant hit the post on the stroke of half time. Predictably Leeds pushed hard for the equaliser after the interval but they lacked the subtlety to break down a resolute Reading defence. Reading dealt with a barrage of long high balls in to the box effectively and were not fazed by United's attempts to intimidate them. For all their pressure in the final stages Al Habsi had remarkably little to do. Reading deservedly took all three points from a game they might well have won more comfortably with more composure in front of goal.
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