Defeat against Birmingham on Tuesday night meant that for the second time in as many home games, the Royals were overturned by the Championship’s bottom side at the Mad Stad. The pressure on Jaap Stam has never been more intense, with speculation over his future rife.
However, as Reading fans know well from our recent FA Cup adventures, a prolonged run in the world’s oldest cup competition can certainly help to bring back the feel good factor.
These two sides do have cup history - but unfortunately for the Royals, these are not always happy memories. The ‘Boro came to the Mad Stad at this stage of the competition in 2012, claiming a 1-0 victory in a dire game, played out in front of a crowd that featured more empty seats than actual spectators.
The season before that however, a late goal from Shane Long put Reading through into the late 16 of the competition after Mikele Leigertwood’s opener had been cancelled out by Darius Charles.
Form (all comps): LLLDL
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)
This week has seen all eyes on Jaap Stam, Ron Gourlay and the Royals’ Board of Directors, with the ongoing saga over the Dutchman’s future overshadowing the build-up to the return of FA Cup football.
With no wins in their last six, it will be interesting to see how Stam approaches the game. Given his team’s perilous slide towards the Championship relegation zone, it would not be surprising to see him ring the changes, so as to give some of the more weary sets of legs a chance to rest after the busy Christmas period.
However, Stam may equally see the game as a chance to get a win for a side that appears desperately low on confidence. Whatever he opts for, the Dutchman has no new major injury concerns ahead of the visit to Broadhall Way.
Form (all comps): LWLLW
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)
Stevenage had been going through an inconsistent patch in League Two of late, and will be looking to the FA Cup as a source of respite from a difficult league campaign. Darren Sarll’s men have won just two games in their last six - 5-1 and 4-1 victories against Chesterfield and Cheltenham respectively.
Having seen off the Royals’ arch-enemies Swindon in the last round, crushing the Robins 5-2 to set up this third-round clash, Stevenage will now look to do the Wiltshire-Berkshire double en route to a second appearance in the fourth round in five years.
It really is a guessing game as to what sort of performance the Royals will put in these days. Reading have been beyond poor in some of their recent games, but on paper, this is a mismatch and the Royals should look at this tie as a chance to get their season back on track.
Stevenage 0-2 Royals
Do you agree with our prediction?
This poll is closed
Yes - into the 4th round we go!
Draw - and the dreaded replay!
No - We’re going out...maybe Stam is too?