After a somewhat disappointing draw against Cardiff City at the Madjeski Stadium, Reading will be looking to bounce back against bottom club Bolton. Handed a 6-0 thrashing at Bristol City last time, they will want to put that embarrassing episode behind them quickly. With both teams languishing at the wrong end of the table I've looked at three key battles that could settle it one way or the other for the Royals.
Paul Rachubka vs. Yann Kermorgant
The Bolton team has been unsettled of late and American goalkeeper Paul Rachubka has been given a chance between the sticks after only eight first team appearances this season. Yann Kermorgant, who is likely to be the focal point of a Reading attack often lacking inspiration, will be hoping to capitalise on his lack of first team action this year.
Despite what the 6-0 scoreline suggests, Rachubka made some very good saves against a free flowing Bristol team. The final score could have been much worse if it wasn't for the Bolton keeper. However standing at 6ft tall he is not the largest keeper in the world and Kermorgant can use that to his advantage. Any shots taken from open play should be put high and into the corners to take advantage of Rachubka's relatively short reach. From corners challenging for balls coming in close to the keeper will be important as it will be difficult for the keeper to come and claim aerial balls.
Hal Robson-Kanu vs. Dean Moxey
He's not expected to play but Reading have never been overly open with their injury news! HRK has been one of Reading's more impressive players of late and will hopefully be fit again after being subbed off early against Cardiff. Kanu has impressed me recently as he has added some clever tricks and flicks to his game. Cutting in towards goal he can apply the finishing touch that his left sided counterpart Ola John seemingly cannot. He will be instrumental in providing an attacking spark against the leagues bottom team. If Brian McDermott chooses to play a single striker formation like he often has since returning to Reading then Robson-Kanu will have to get forward for support when he can. If he can get close to Kermorgant he'll be able to get on the end of plenty of knock downs and hopefully get plenty of chances.
However Kanu comes up against an accomplished fullback in the form of Dean Moxey. In my opinion Moxey is a star turn in an otherwise poor defensive unit. As a main stay in this Bolton side with 33 appearances this season, Moxey has a wealth of Championship experience with both Bolton and Crystal Palace and will marshall the defence well. Kanu will have to be very clever to outwit a defender that knows the ins and outs of this league. Hopefully Robson Kanu will be able to exploit Moxey on the turn otherwise it could be a hard day for the Reading winger.
Darren Pratley vs. Michael Hector
Like HRK, Hector is a doubt for this but until gameday he's still in contention. You may remember a certain Darren Pratley scoring in a 1-1 draw against Reading in the 2013/14 season. He has only got 4 goals in 31 appearances for Bolton this season but has done well in a team that has struggled in front of goal. He's played decently in the centre of the park and is a good technical player. He works hard and will certainly be a problem for the Royal's midfield.
In my opinion Michael Hector was largely ineffective playing in a deep lying midfield role against Cardiff. That being said however I think McDermott has found his best position in front of the back four. He breaks up play well and against Bolton it will be important that he protects the Reading defence against long balls and counter attacks, furthermore as a good physical player the Jamaican will be very important in neutralising Darren Pratley.