1) First goal could be crucial
I know this is a footballing cliché but the stats for both teams do show how important the first goal at today’s match will be.
Reading’s record when they score first is pretty decent: five games, four wins, one draw, with eleven goals for and five against. It is actually the sixth best record in the division. Sadly at the moment Reading are finding it quite hard to score any goal let alone the first in a match.
If they do manage today then their supporters may feel comforted by the knowledge that Blackpool have only managed to avoid defeat once (a draw) in the seven games they have conceded first.
Unfortunately the Royals record isn’t much better. Since the opening draw away at Wigan, Reading have conceded the first goal six times and lost every time. With their likely to be a tense atmosphere at the Madejski it is hard not to feel that the first goal may determine the outcome of the match.
2) How will Reading defend set pieces?
Want an uplifting statistic for Reading!? Blackpool have only scored one goal from set pieces this season and that was a direct free kick.
Want an uplifting stat for Blackpool!? Reading are the perfect opponents for the Tangerines to add to their set pieces tally (currently the lowest in the league). Only Leeds out of Reading’s last seven opponents have not scored a set piece against the league’s joint second worst defence.
It might help if Reading started to show consistency in the way they defend corners. Now I know you have to change your tactics for every opponent, and that two minute highlights of YouTube are not the best basis for analysis of Reading’s defence, BUT the lack of organisation and mayhem is clear from the brief highlights the club posts online.
Against Newport, Shaun Cummings doesn’t move from the near post. Against Wolves and Bournemouth, there is no one standing on the near post. Against Brentford and Derby, Chris Gunter and Hal Robson-Kanu respectively, were asked to stand on the edge of the six yard box and then rush back to the near post when the ball had gone over their heads.
This constant changing of how the team defends the near post seems a perfect example of how Reading are just unable to find a solution to their defensive woes. Without wanting to tempt fate or show a lack of respect towards our opponents, if the Royals concede another goal from a set piece today, then serious questions need to start being asked.
3) Blackpool sitting back
Trying to tell you Blackpool’s normal formation is near impossible as their average positions for most games looks like a random splattering of dots.
The only consistency is two centre backs who tend to sit very deep. Blackpool as a team have spent the least amount of time in the opposition half in the whole league and only Charlton have had more game time in their own half.
If you’re expecting an easy afternoon, though, you may be disappointed. Blackpool’s games have tended to be close run things (at least going by the score lines) and, as recent weeks have shown, Reading have often struggled when teams have limited Simon Cox’s space.
Blackpool will know that Reading are out of confidence and the home support will be on edge. Expect them to be quite content to take the safety first approach knowing the emphasis will be on Reading to break them down. To do so the Royals will have to do better than in recent games when they have got back into the bad habit of going down blind alleys before putting over hopeful crosses.