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Match Preview: Reading FC v Stevenage

Are the Royals fourth round bound? Could it go all the way to penalties?

Stevenage v Reading - The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Sometimes, we love a replay. Think Bond at Christmas. A particularly funny Snapchat. Or perhaps the greatest replay of them all, Iyaz’s huge 2009 smash hit of the same name.

Unfortunately for most Royals fans, tomorrow’s game - the third round replay between Reading and Stevenage - does not fall into this category. Sitting just five points above the relegation zone, this is not the extra game that Jaap Stam wanted adding to his calendar after a hectic winter period, bereft of points. Given the Royals’ recent performance and entertainment levels, it is also arguably not what the fans were after either.

But here we are. Winless in eight, Stam will know that Tuesday’s game presents his side with a huge opportunity to stop the rot. So let’s do this...

Reading

Form (all comps): DLDDD

Last five FA Cup runs:

2016-17: 3rd round - lost to Manchester United 4-0 (a)

2015-16: Quarter finals - lost to Crystal Palace 0-2 (h)

2014-15: Semi finals - lost to Arsenal 1-2 (Wembley)

2013-14: 3rd round - lost to Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 (a)

2012-13: 5th round - lost to Manchester United 2-1 (a)

In isolation, Saturday’s draw away to Hull was not a bad result. In another season, Jaap Stam would not expect to be facing such scrutiny after failing to take all three points at the KCOM. However, it is because of Reading’s woeful recent form that even with a commendable point in last year’s UK City of Culture (running out of ways to say ‘Hull’ here) that the Dutchman remains under intense pressure. Defeat at home against League Two Stevenage could render his position untenable - despite the insistence of the Reading hierarchy.

Stam went back to a full strength squad for the game against the Tigers, following seven changes to the starting line-up for the first bout against Stevenage at Broadhall Way last Saturday.

Given the club’s perilous position in the league, it may not come as a surprise to see the Dutchman make wholesale changes once again. Finnish keeper Anssi Jaakkola will likely get another cup run out, whilst youth will also probably be given a chance in the form of Omar Richards.

Stevenage

Form (all comps): LLWDD

Last five FA Cup runs:

2016-17: 1st round - lost to Port Vale 1-0 (a)

2015-16: 2nd round - lost to Yeovil 1-0 (a)

2014-15: 1st round - lost to Maidstone 2-1 (a)

2013-14: 4th round - lost to Everton 0-4 (h)

2012-13: 1st round - lost to Rotherham 3-2 (a)

Despite sitting 44 places beneath the Royals in the Football League pyramid at the time of writing, Stevenage proved a stubborn enough obstacle to stop the Royals progressing to the fourth round at the first time of asking.

They head to the Madejski hopeful that they can go one better this time and can almost call upon a full strength squad to help them with their cause. The only doubt remains striker Mark McKee, who missed his side’s weekend draw against Morecambe.

Prediction

This is not a game that the Royals should lose. If changes are made, then those brought in should see this as a chance to stake a claim ahead of a crucial few months for the Royals. It won’t be pretty, but the Royals should have enough.

Royals 1-0 Stevenage

Poll

Do you agree with out prediction?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Yes - We’re off to Carlisle/Sheff Wed!
    (25 votes)
  • 41%
    No - It’s back-to-back 3rd round exits for the Royals...
    (18 votes)
43 votes total Vote Now