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Tilehurst End Preview - Middlesbrough (H)

So who we playing? Middlesbrough at the Madejski Stadium in a 3pm Saturday kick-off

Are they any good? Boro are finally finding their feet again at this level and have started the season in fine fashion, sitting second in the table.

Any former Royals? Nope

Our last meeting? Reading ran out 5-2 winners at the Madejski Stadium back in March with Ian Harte and Shane Long scoring twice and Hal Robson-Kanu also on the scoresheet.

It's been a while since I've written a match preview but hopefully this is the start of a return to our regular preview slot.

The fortunes of both Reading and Middlesbrough are examples of just how much football can change in a short space of time. Just over five years ago, Reading had romped to the Championship title with 106 points while Middlesbrough were playing in a UEFA Cup Final. Within three years both sides had been relegated back to the Championship,  Both teams then flirted with relegation into the third tier and both saw managers sacked within the first few months of a season.

Today and both sides are looking to try and get back into the Premier League but it's the club in the North East that looks more primed to do so, after an impressive start in Tony Mowbray's first full season in charge at the BT Cellnet... sorry Riverside Stadium, with Boro now in second place. That second placed position has been built on an excellent away record that has seen Mowbray's side win all four of their away league games this season, keeping three clean sheets along the way.  Their attack has been led by Dutchman Marvin Emnes who already has five Championship goals to his name, as well as a Carling Cup hat-trick.  Barry Robson and Scott McDonald have also impressed, two of the survivors of Gordon Strachan's reign at in the North East and players that are finally living up to their billing when they moved South.

Reading meanwhile have finally managed to grind out some results to settle into midtable, with seven points out of a possible nine in their last three. Tuesday's dramatic win at Bristol City was welcome but for 70 minutes Reading weren't good enough and hopefully we'll see a more consistent 90 minutes from the team, rather then leaving it late again. Though it might not seem an advantage, It might help that we're playing an in form side as it will take a bit of pressure off a group who have had to play 'underdog' after 'underdog' in the last three weeks.

Historically Middlesbrough have the edge when the two sides have met, with Boro winning seven of the twenty league meetings, winning most recently at the Madejski Stadium in 2009 when Leroy Lita inspired them to a 2-0 win over Brendan Rodger's Reading side.

If you ask Reading fans for memories of this fixture their minds are more likely to drift to last year's 5-2 win, a League Cup quater-final in 1998 that ended in a contraversial win for a Boro side that contained Paul Merson and Paul Gascoigne  or most fondly, memories of our first ever game in the Premier League.

Injury wise the Royals will be waiting on news of Jimmy Kebe who has missed the last two games but otherwise Brian McDermott will have a full squad to chose from.

Predication wise I'm going to go for a 1-1 draw with Reading snatching another late point.

Match Previews:

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Reading Chronicle

Royals Rendezvous

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Boro Evening Gazette

Boro Mad