Reading - Watford (Championship) - Match Preview

Ben Hoskins

It doesn't get any easier, chaps... After a solid win at home to Ipswich and a hard-fought point away at Bolton Wanderers, Reading face another battle in the constant war that is The Championship. Play-off heartbreak for Watford last term (don't we just know how that feels...) - they, like the Royals, are determined to reach the promised land via the top two.

Form Guide

Reading: 1-1 Bolton (A), 2-1 Ipswich (H)

Four points from the first two games, job done for many Royals fans. The home win against Ipswich was solid, and probably deserved, with the Bolton match being a true game of two halves, as Reading dominated the second 45 and could have nicked the game. Whilst the chances have been there and the pressure has at times been constant, that's the problem which needs to be addressed - it seems that Reading can't sustain the effort (at the moment) for the full ninety.

Watford: 6-1 Bournemouth (H), 1-0 Birmingham (A)

The Hornets grabbed the headlines with their thrashing of the Cherries last Saturday but as Jon Moonie told us on our weekly podcast, it could have been very different. 1-1 at the break and Bournemouth might have gone in ahead. But the second half pressure told and Watford grabbed five to well and truly settle the game. Deeney grabbed a hat-trick and also scored the only goal in their opening-day victory at Birmingham.

Home/Away Records

Reading Home 2011/12: P23 W14 D5 L4 F36 A18 (3rd)

Watford Away 2012/13: P23 W12 D3 L8 F44 A31 (1st)

(Let's consign last year's Premier League season to the bin for the sake of this comparison, eh...?)

When we won the Championship, we did so with the third best home record in the League, behind only Southampton and Birmingham (who lost just one game at home all season).Just eighteen goals conceded at the Madejski that season in the League too, showing that teams found it difficult to hit the back of the net in deepest Berkshire.

But Watford trump that with their great away record. They may have lost eight but their twelve wins was the most of anyone else in the division last term. They were actually one point better away from home than at Vicarage Road in 2012/13 - this is no easy task.

Head To Head

Whilst most fans will remember Watford-Reading matches for a few things (nil-nils, ghost goals...), we haven't had a goalless game for nearly six years, and almost five since Stuart Attwell haunted the Watford fans...

The last time we met was the 2011/12 season, and it was early in the season when the Hornets came to the Mad Stad and grabbed a 2-0 win, with goals from Mark Yeates and John Eustace. That left the Royals 2nd bottom, six games into the season. But revenge was sweet in January, as Jimmy Kebe and a late Adam Le Fondre flick cancelled out Shaun Cummings' early own goal for a 2-1 victory, moving Reading up to 5th just 20 games later. Just shows you that early season form isn't everything.

Slightly worrying is that in the last six meetings at the Madejski, we've only beaten Watford once - that was a convincing 4-0 in early 2009 with Armstong, Noel Hunt, Doyle and Lita on the scoresheet. Watford have won two of those six matches, with three being draws. And just one was nil-nil!

Team News

Nothing particularly new for the Royals, as there are no more suspensions to worry about, no transfers, and seemingly no new injuries. It was a bit of a surprise to see Nigel Adkins pick Nick Blackman to start up top against Bolton, but he scored his penalty and so will probably keep the shirt.

As ever it should be positive moves to reflect the fact that we're at home and should be on the front foot, rather than better defensive options. Jobi McAnuff replaced Hal Robson-Kanu up at Bolton and he might keep his place after Hal looked short of fitness in the season opener.

The only other change I can possibly see is Danny Williams coming into the side to start, possibly in place of Jem Karacan. Williams didn't play in midweek, however, and might need to play himself into contention by proving his fitness. In any case, Jem has done nothing to show he doesn't deserve to start.

Of course, these team selections reveal something about the backstage situation at the football club, with Pavel Pogrebnyak on the bench and Adrian Mariappa not even in the 18. It seems strange that our best centre-back and arguably our best striker last season aren't in the team this term - for rumours and mindless speculation, navigate to Twitter.

I'm pretty confident about the Watford side too, seeing as they've played the same XI in both Championship matches so far with the same three substitutions - the only differences being the timing of those subs. Like Mariappa and Pogrebnyak, if Troy Deeney isn't in the squad, there'll be whispers...

Likely Lineups

Reading: McCarthy; Gunter, Pearce, Morrison, Bridge; Guthrie, Karacan; McAnuff, Drenthe, McCleary; Blackman

Watford: Almunia; Angella, Doyley, Cassetti, Faraoni; McGugan, Anya, Abdi, Iriney; Deeney, Forestieri

The Ref

Mike Jones is the man tasked with expending energy to turn air into sound via the medium of whistle. We're very familiar with Mr Jones, him having reffed us three times last year at the Mad Stad - and we didn't win any of them (though that's not a mean feat!). He showed 85 yellows and 3 reds in 31 games last term.

Best Odds

Reading 8/5

Draw 5/2

Watford 15/8

The Tilehurst End Prediction

Whilst Watford have been mightily impressive this term, there's no doubting that a trip to Reading is a far more daunting task than hammering newly-promoted Bournemouth at home. Equally for the Royals, this is a true test, and the first real acid test of where exactly we are. I said above that early-season form doesn't break a season (as proved by our 2-0 loss at home to the Hornets the year we went up) - but it could go some way to making it, especially in terms of confidence.

I can't ignore the fact that Watford were playoff runners up last term and made a real statement last weekend. But there's nothing for Reading to fear, and I think we'll be the ones making headlines this Saturday. 3-2 Royals, and a thriller. Oh yes. There will be goals...

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