It’s funny how much one result can change the mood. Reading’s fight against relegation was looking particularly bleak after one win in five, but a gutsy 3-2 victory over Bristol City has made it look... less bleak. Get another three points over bottom club Ipswich Town this weekend, making it back-to-back wins, and our fortunes will look even better.
On paper we won’t get a better shot at consecutive league victories. The Tractor Boys made a dire start to the season before Paul Hurst was sacked; Paul Lambert the man chosen to turn their fortunes around. He inherited a team struggling for form after the departure of Mick McCarthy towards the end of last season and has a tough task on his hands.
In-form striker Yakou Meite could keep his place in the starting line-up after coming off against Bristol City with an ankle injury. Paul Clement confirmed that the Ivorian hasn’t trained this week, but he’s still hopeful Meite will be involved against Town. Anssi Jaakkola, winner of the highly-coveted TTE player of the month award for October, may also return.
Jon Dadi Bodvarsson does not, however, have any chance of being in the squad. The Icelander is set for at least six weeks on the sidelines. Otherwise, Reading will have to do without Jordan Obita, Dave Edwards, Pelle Clement, Adrian Popa, Omar Richards and Saeid Ezatolahi.
It’s certainly a huge game for Reading. Three points could lift us high as 18th, and well within touching distance of mid-table obscurity. However, coming away with only a draw or - shudder - a l**s (I dare not type that word), and we’ll be firmly wedged in the bottom three.
If you’re looking for hope going into Saturday, you’ll find it in Reading’s record against fellow strugglers. Thus far we’ve played Preston North End (21), Hull City (23) and Millwall (19), beating all three, so recent history would suggest we’re odds-on for a triumph against Ipswich Town.
Paul Clement on Ipswich Town
“I think this is a very complicated game. If I, the players or the fans think this is going to be easy then they are wrong. They are a team who have struggled and only won once this season but they are fighting for their football lives, like we are.
“So that makes it a very, very hard game. Paul Lambert’s had another week to work with the team - him and the players will be searching for their first win. It’s going to be a very difficult game and we should expect our hardest game of the season.”
Summer signing Jon Nolan won’t be available for the match - he missed last week’s 1-1 draw with Preston North End due to a dead leg but won’t return. Otherwise, Myles Kenlock, Ellis Harrison, Teddy Bishop, Emyr Huws and Tom Adeyemi aren’t far away from playing but won’t do so at the Madejski Stadium.
That said, Grant Ward may return to the team. In a quote that every Reading fan will recognise, Lambert essentially said the 23 year-old was a victim of Town having too big a squad.
“I can only pick 18 and it was very tough to pick a squad because everybody was great in training. I can only go with what I see and picked a team and a bench that could win us the game.
“Wardy’s chance along with others will come. As long as the focus is always there and the team spirit is always there then he’ll get his chance and then it’s up to him to take it.”
I could have swapped “Wardy” out for “Josh Sims”, claimed the quote was from Paul Clement and you guys wouldn’t have known...
- Reading: 23
- Draws: 10
- Ipswich Town: 27
Reading 2-1 Ipswich Town, September 24 1938, Division Three (South)
Most recent meeting
Let’s not talk about that
Reading 0-4 Ipswich Town April 24 2018, Championship
Most recent Reading win against Ipswich Town
Reading 2-1 Ipswich Town, September 9 2016, Championship
Reading 5-1 Ipswich Town, September 11 2015, Championship
It’ll be a tight, nervy game that could very well be decided by one goal, or at least the first of the afternoon. Reading will have to ensure they get ahead and forget the silly defensive mistakes that have marred their season. Nonetheless, I’m backing them for a 2-0 win.