In the last game before the international break, Reading take on Luton Town, another side that's made a slow start to the season. This edition of Town End comes from Hatters fan Matt Storey, who explains what's gone right since promotion last season, what's gone wrong, and how Saturday's game may pan out.
What have you made of Luton’s start to the season?
It’s been a little bit frustrating, in all honesty. We always knew it’d likely be a relegation battle this season, it just feels like we’ve had plenty of games where we could have taken something and haven’t already. We’ve not really been outclassed, losing seven of the nine games we’ve lost by one goal, but silly mistakes keep costing us.
The 3-0 victory over Bristol City three weeks ago was definitely the high, yet it has been followed by three of our poorest performances and that is a worry. I probably sound more negative than I am, because I do think we’ve frightened a few sides too.
In the summer you said you’d take 21st or above at the end of the season - do you think Luton will manage that?
We can definitely manage that, but it’ll take tightening up at the back significantly to do so. We’ve put in enough performances without reward to show that a little bit of know-how could make a huge difference. The fact we score plenty of goals will stand us in good stead as well. Another positive is I think Barnsley might end up cut adrift, meaning two spots to fight it out for.
What are your main strengths?
Our strength is certainly in the attacking third of the pitch. Izzy Brown (not guaranteed to start due to injury) is clearly a top, top player at this level. He took a while to get used to playing games again after so long out, but his creative ability will be the difference between a relegation battle and lower mid-table glory (not mediocrity).
James Collins always scores goals and I’m confident he’ll end up with 15+ this campaign, even if he is going through a dry spell. We have pace in Harry Cornick, Kazenga LuaLua and Callum McManaman, while Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu in midfield is our longest-serving player and has looked at home in the Championship since coming back into the side in late September.
There is no doubt about it, defensively we’re poor and can be got at. It’s not necessarily looking like conceding every time another team comes forward, more a different player making a mistake. Both our full-backs from last year our now Premier League players. James Bree at right-back has had a rough few weeks, while Dan Potts is still finding his feet and both will be attacked.
In the middle, there are still question marks over Sonny Bradley and Matty Pearson in this league. Both are good players and I think most Luton fans are desperate for them to succeed in this side, but they have found out that every mistake is punished. Whether that’s missing a ball, or just standing off your marker too much. Thankfully, James Shea has replaced record signing Simon Sluga in goal and we’ve gone four games without a howler - previously unheard of.
Do you have any standout memories of past games against Reading for good or bad reasons?
Well, like most teams in this league, it’s been a while. I’ll always remember the Friday night game when we ended your long unbeaten run in 2006. I think you went ahead very early on in a cracking game, which we won 3-2. I know fans who are older and were at the very first Madejski Stadium game - they talk about mounds of gravel and sand outside the ground still.
What do you make of Reading at the moment?
The only Reading game I’ve watched was your 3-0 win over Cardiff, so perhaps I’m not best-placed to comment. But it feels like a club not quite sure what they want to be, or what direction they’re going in. Two relegation battles in a row is never a good sign and I think you’ll be one of the sides we’re battling with come the end of the season. I know Mark Bowen has come in and picked up some results, but that is not uncommon under a new boss (even if he isn’t a new face) and I don’t read too much into that.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
We’ve conceded possession in away games far more willingly than at Kenilworth Road, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we do the same here. That means trying to hit you on the counter-attack and utilising our pace. Saying that, your Millwall report says that was your plan too, so I could be completely wrong. My heart says a hard-fought win, my head says score draw. I’ll go for 2-2.