Reading return to the Madejski Stadium this Tuesday evening to face Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough side, who have spent a lot of time near the bottom of the table this season.
After sacking Jonathan Woodgate, the club have gone from having a manager with little managerial experience right to the other extreme! Despite our obvious dislike for Warnock back from his Sheffield United days, I think we are all thinking the same thing: Middlesbrough are now in pole position to stay up under his leadership. Will he guide the visitors to a win this Tuesday, or will hosts Reading come out on top?
Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of our tie with Boro.
What? Championship Matchday 44
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Tuesday 14th July 2020 (6pm KO)
League Form Record
We seem to be in a very strange situation with Mark Bowen. For his first managerial job, he has done very, very well and started off brilliantly after the sacking of Jose Gomes. Although we have had bad spells of form under Bowen, I have been impressed with his inclusion of the academy graduates over the past three games.
After the Brentford game, I felt he was in a very precarious position but over those last few matches, things have changed and we can only hope this good form continues until the end of the season. His style of play leaves a lot to be desired sometimes – but we are winning games right now. The trouble will come if we go on a losing run.
Charlie Adam and Ayub Masika missed the game at the weekend with slight niggles, although Mark Bowen could welcome them back in midweek. However, there’s no such thing as ‘easing’ in players slowly coming back from injury when you face a Neil Warnock side.
Andy Yiadom also remains out – and it remains to be seen when Lucas Joao and Ovie Ejaria will return. Pele also has a minor hamstring injury – although we hope his half time substitution at The Valley was only precautionary.
Winning just two of their last five games will be a concern to Neil Warnock, who is desperate to keep the Teeside club afloat in the Championship.
They need to start turning these losses in to hard fought draws because at this stage of the season, every point counts. In the festive period, Boro won four consecutive league games but since then, their form has been very poor and it was no surprise at all to see Jonathan Woodgate lose his job.
Currently, Middlesbrough are 19th and just two points off the relegation zone. With three games to go, this will be a nerve-racking period for Boro fans.
However, I back them to stay up until Neil Warnock – purely because he can command the dressing room and has a track record of doing well. There’s no doubt next season needs to be better for the Teeside club though – otherwise they could be staring in to a bleak future.
The Last Meeting
Middlesbrough 1 – 0 Reading
Andy Yiadom was heavily involved in the action early one, when he helped to set up chances for Yakou Meite and John Swift, although they failed to break the deadlock. Ovie Ejaria also had a shot saved at the start of the second half – but it was the home side who were to break the deadlock when Marvin Johnson’s inswinging free kick found its way past Rafael and in to the Reading net.
The presence of Ashley Fletcher in the box also played an important part in the goal – and this was a much-needed boost for the side who climbed up to 13th after the mid-September game. This left Reading two points behind Boro and was a sign of things to come for Jose Gomes.
In all fairness to the Royals, they did deserve to get something from the game and Liam Moore’s header nearly secured the equaliser. However, goals win games and the away side failed to produce on that front at the Riverside.
- Reading have not conceded in over 270 minutes of Championship football (including stoppage time). The last time an opposition side notched against us was at the end of last month when Joel Valencia rounded off an awful day at the Madejski for the home side in Brentford’s 3-0 win.
- *Copies and pastes Sunday’s Tweet*. Reading have lost their last six league matches against Middlesbrough, in a run stretching back to the 2015/16 season. Our last victory over them was in October 2015 when we secured a 2-0 home win. Danny Williams and Nick Blackman scored that day.
- Neil Warnock has taken just six points from a possible 15 in his first five games as Boro boss.
- However, Middlesbrough have won three out of their last four Championship away games. Good job – because they have yet to win a home game in the league this calendar year.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Osho, Pele, Rinomhota, Olise, Swift, Meite, Pusacs
Although Mark Bowen is likely to keep the same side that won against Charlton Athletic (unless Ovie Ejaria returns to the side), I would like to see one change made just for experimental purposes.
With the futures of Tyler Blackett and Jordan Obita looking more uncertain by the day, now could be the team to put Omar Richards in at left back to see how he copes alongside fellow academy graduate Tom McIntyre on the left-hand side of defence.
We have to balance the need to continue building momentum ahead of next season with giving players a chance who could end up being a part of our long-term future. Could we see Thierry Nevers on the bench before the season is up? I remember Brian McDermott throwing in Josh Barrett near the end of the 2015/16 season – and he made his mark.
When you look at that lineup, it could be similar to how we start next season. We can pray that Rafael will stay in goal, Yiadom may replace Osho in the starting eleven unless he is sold (due to high wages), Morrison and McIntyre could start together if Moore goes, with Omar Richards at left-back. Pele is unlikely to return and there are question marks over the futures of John Swift and George Puscas.
Lucas Joao is also likely to come back in to the starting lineup in place of Puscas next season after doing reasonably well in his first season in Berkshire. However, Puscas has also scored a reasonable amount of league goals considering this is also his maiden season for the Royals.
Moving on to the score prediction, I think we could continue to build momentum even though any side managed by Neil Warnock presents a challenge. A fourth clean sheet in a row is a big ask but if we can go another 90 minutes without conceding, it can only help to increase confidence in the Reading camp.
Having a strong defence is underrated – and we could become a solid unit if this form continues.
Score Prediction: Reading 2 – 0 Middlesbrough
Other Championship fixtures
Tuesday 14th July:
West Bromwich Albion vs Fulham (5pm KO)
Wigan Athletic vs Hull City (6pm KO)
Cardiff City vs Derby County
Luton Town vs Queens Park Rangers
Millwall vs Blackburn Rovers
Sheffield Wednesday vs Huddersfield Wednesday (ALL 7:45pm KO)
Wednesday 15th July:
Brentford vs Preston North End
Bristol City vs Stoke City (BOTH 5pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Charlton Athletic
Nottingham Forest vs Swansea City (BOTH 6pm KO)
Thursday 16th July:
Leeds United vs Barnsley (5pm KO)