After a brilliant win against Bristol City at the weekend, Reading travel north to face Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough tonight.
After the 4-2 defeat at AFC Bournemouth a week and a half ago, taking four points from a possible six in their past two games is quite an achievement. Both Millwall and Bristol City were not easy sides to play against - but the Royals rose to the occasion. If they can take a point or three away from Sheffield this evening, it might be the start of another very good run. It will be fascinating to see how both sides perform tonight as they battle at opposite ends of the Championship table.
Here’s all the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this tie.
What? Championship Matchday 15
Who? Sheffield Wednesday
Where? Hillsborough Stadium
When? Wednesday 2nd December
Opposition Manager? Tony Pulis
Sheffield Wednesday: WDLDD
The last few games must have been frustrating for Wednesday fans. After having Josh Windass sent off early away at Preston North End, it was always going to be an uphill struggle - and conceded early on in the second half as they fell to a 1-0 defeat. Recent draws against Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium and Stoke City at home were respectable. And they will starting picking up wins sooner rather than later, let’s just hope they don’t start a good run tonight.
I was actually delighted for Sheffield Wednesday when Tony Pulis was appointed. Personally, I believe he’s exactly the managerial appointment Wednesday need at this moment in time with the tough situation they are in. Despite not winning under the new manager yet, fans seem to be seeing positive changes and that can only serve the club well in the long term. This season was never going to be easy - but if Pulis can stabilise the ship and guide the Owls to safety - they can count this as a very successful campaign.
What a fantastic result on Saturday. After Nakhi Wells’ (offside) goal made it 1-1, we could have easily crumbled. However, it was testament to our mental strength that we responded almost straight away. Michael Olise’s influence on the pitch was clear for all to see - but every man played their part in the victory.
Tom Holmes was another player who stood out on Saturday - and how fitting it is to see two academy graduates make such an impact in the first team. Whilst Danny Loader and Tom McIntyre were focused on by many over the last few years, including me admittedly, both Olise and Holmes have shown exactly why they should be playing Championship football. McIntyre still has a great future at Reading - but Holmes has been the better player so far this season.
In terms of injuries, Andy Yiadom, John Swift and George Puscas remain out - and we may not see any of them return for a while. However, it is encouraging to hear about the progress Swift is making. Will he be able to break his way back in to the starting lineup immediately? I suspect not but the midfielder will no doubt be a key player when he is available again.
The Last Meeting
Sheffield Wednesday 0-3 Reading
The Royals survived an early scare in this tie before Ovie Ejaria’s sumptuous ball through was met by Yakou Meite who had the composure to slot the ball home beyond Cameron Dawson. Things went from bad to worse for the home team when defender Osaze Urhoghide was sent off in the 48th minute for a second bookable offence, which arguably determined the fate of this match.
Andy Yiadom’s drive over 20 minutes later, deflected in off George Puscas to make it 2-0, before Sam Baldock’s penalty in stoppage time rounded off a memorable away trip for Reading supporters who made the trip. Andy Rinomhota did very well to win the penalty late on - and it just goes to show how committed he is to this team. He’s a real asset, let’s hope he stays with us for the long term.
The Last League Match
Reading 3-1 Bristol City
After a goalless first half, it was the home side who took the lead in the 54th minute when Ovie Ejaria’s shot deflected heavily off Zak Vyner and into the Bristol City net. Reading missed several opportunities to double their lead, before Nakhi Wells bundled the ball home with just over 15 minutes to go to equalise for the away side.
However, the Royals responded almost straight away when Michael Olise’s inviting through ball allowed Yakou Meite to get in behind the away side’s defence and make it 2-1, before Lucas Joao’s finish in stoppage team sealed all three points. They will be looking to build on this great result tonight against a much different opponent.
- Without their points deduction, Sheffield Wednesday would be on 14 points in 19th, with three wins, five draws and six losses. This is still not ideal - but it’s better than the current situation they find themselves in.
- The Owls have won just one of their past nine Championship games. This came against Bournemouth at the start of November.
- Reading have won just one fixture out of their previous seven against tonight’s opponents. Can the Royals improve this record after last season’s away win?
- However, the Royals were the joint-second best attacking side in the Championship at the end of play on Saturday with AFC Bournemouth (23 goals), with Blackburn ahead of both (27). They aren’t now after the game between the Cherries and Preston North End - but it was fun while it lasted...
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Morrison, Moore, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Meite, Joao
I don’t think there’s much to say for this one, especially with the 3-1 win against Bristol City. Unless there are any new injuries, how can we change our starting lineup in any way shape or form?
Rafael has seemingly put his previous mistakes behind him to reassert himself as the first choice keeper at the Madejski Stadium, with Liam Moore and Michael Morrison both recovering straight away after sustaining knocks at the weekend.
Moore’s throat injury (yep, I never thought I would say that) looked particularly distressing, although he carried on well and led his side to victory. Omar Richards has been immense as well so far this season, with Tom Holmes coming in to provide a much-needed layer of defensive solidity.
Andy Rinomhota starts again in midfield alongside Josh Laurent, who seems to be a missing piece in the puzzle that Reading have needed for such a long time. It’s easy to forget he was playing in League One last season with how well he has slotted in at the heart of midfield.
Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite are likely to start either side of Michael Olise again - and I have to say his assist for Meite’s goal at the weekend was sublime. It was frustrating to see him on the bench in previous games - but it was well worth the wait and I hope he appears from the start more regularly from now on.
As per usual, I have gone with Lucas Joao up front - and there is no real alternative at the moment with George Puscas’ absence. We can only hope the Romanian makes a speedy recovery for his own well-being and for the sake of the squad who need as many players as possible fit and ready to go when needed.
Right, score prediction time. On a previous podcast I did, I predicted a 2-0 Reading win. However, with Tony Pulis in charge, we will face a difficult task tonight. On top of this, it’s also clear the Owls are not currently playing to their full potential. Although their points deduction must have been a huge psychological blow, I back them to stay up under Pulis this season - although I do predict a Reading win. 2-0 is what I will stick with - but this would be a dream result at such an important time.
Score Prediction: Sheffield Wednesday 0-2 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Wednesday 2nd December (7:45pm KO) unless stated:
Middlesbrough vs Swansea City (7pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Millwall
Luton Town vs Norwich City
Nottingham Forest vs Watford
Wycombe Wanderers vs Stoke City