Reading return to action on Saturday, making the long trip north to Middlesbrough FC. Boro, now under the management of former player Jonathan Woodgate, have started the season slowly. After one win in six they sit 18th in the table - two places below the Royals. However, the Riverside has been an unhappy hunting ground for us in recent years, with Reading losing 2-1 on our last three trips there.
To get a closer look at the opposition, we talked to Andy Bell from Boro news website oneBoro. You can find Andy on Twitter here, and oneBoro here.
One win in six for Boro so far – why the slow start?
A lot has been made of Boro’s change of approach and system this season and it has taken its time to adjust, judging by the results in the first six league games. There have been some strong displays but there have also been some significant teething problems for Woodgate.
The new manager was also badly let down in the transfer market with just four players arriving. The sides lack of creativity – something that has been a problem for some time now – was not addressed and that is evident as only Paddy McNair has looked a regular threat from midfield.
What do you make of the job Jonathan Woodgate’s done so far?
There was some pessimism surrounding Woodgate’s appointment, mainly due to the fact he was a coach under Tony Pulis and the club were linked with Slavisa Jokanovic over the summer. However, he has won over most with his comments in the media and tactical approach.
There will be pressure on him until he starts consistently winning games, but fans seem to understand the need for patience in the early parts of his tenure. The performance against a good Bristol City before the international break helped with some optimism on Teesside.
What’s the mood in the Boro fanbase like at the moment?
As previously stated, there is some optimism following the performance at Ashton Gate. The weaknesses in the team are obvious but there is a consensus that injuries have disrupted Boro’s back four with Dael Fry, Johnny Howson, Dani Ayala, George Friend and Hayden Coulson all having spells on the sidelines already.
There is also an understanding of Woodgate’s situation at the moment in that he hasn’t been given the easiest of tasks for his first managerial role. He was given a fan base devoid of confidence and optimism, an unbalanced but high-earning squad and little backing the transfer market. All things considered; Woodgate is doing a solid if unspectacular job so far.
Do you have any fond memories of past games at Reading?
One game in particular stands out and its from the 2015/16 season when Boro achieved promotion. They needed a result to go top of the league and it didn’t look likely as Reading should’ve really come away with all three points.
However, a goal from Adam Forshaw in the last minute won the game 2-1 and the goal now has a cult status on Teesside for its importance, but also the comical way it found its way through to the now Leeds man.
Any bad memories?
Boro have a relatively good record against the Royals in recent years so there haven’t been any particularly bad memories – cue a hammering for Boro on Saturday.
The worst result we’ve had was at the Madejski in 2011. It was a bad season in general for Boro after Gordon Strachan’s disastrous summer recruitment saw them closer to the bottom three than the top half. We lost 5-2 that day and put us further in danger of dropping to the third tier.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
From an outsider’s view, Reading seem quite similar to Boro in that they’re a little inconsistent at the moment, but that’s probably down to the number of new signings. George Puscas is a big signing for a team who, with all due respect, struggled last season.
Boro have been poor defensively this season and the Romanian could exploit that and have a good afternoon at the Riverside. However, Boro’s forward men are also in form with Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher both looking confident.
It could be quite an open game if Jose Gomes chooses to avoid a defence-first approach, but I do think Boro will come out on top with a 2-1 win.