After 57 games of excitement, disappointment, injury news, mildly interesting statistics and some shoddy predictions along the way, we have reached the final game of the 2019/20 season and with it, the final match preview of the campaign.
A midweek game to finish off the season is a weird one but we will work with it! Swansea City are the visitors this Wednesday and manager Steve Cooper has done well in his first season as a senior manager – and he will be hoping this is a sign of things to come.
As well as this, the Swans still have something to play for as we reach the final game of the league season. They are just three points off a playoff spot and will go above Cardiff City in sixth if the Bluebirds lose at home to relegation-threatened Hull City and they win their game against the Royals.
Cardiff are the clear favourites to claim that final playoff spot – but Swansea still have a chance. Will this have an impact on the result at the Madejski Stadium? We will have to wait and see.
For the final time this season, here is everything you need to know in this special match preview as we reach the finale of 2019/20.
What? Championship Matchday 46
Who? Swansea City
Where? Madejski Stadium
When? Wednesday 22nd July 2020 (7:30pm)
I have to say the Blackburn Rovers game certainly wasn’t dull! I think the defeat would have been more disheartening if we had something to play for - but it was just a thoroughly enjoyable match to watch. Hopefully the three goals we scored at the weekend will give us the confidence to say that we can be a threat going forward. This will then give the defence confidence that their hard work at the back will pay off.
As I said in the intro, Swansea City (unlike us) have something to play for which could make the game a little more difficult for the home side this Wednesday. However, this is the final time for the Royals to go and show the fans (albeit virtually) what they can do on the pitch.
Tom McIntyre’s early departure from the tie at Ewood Park will be a concern for the Royals - although we can only hope the facial injury he picked up at the weekend is only a minor one. Andy Yiadom, Pele, Charlie Adam, Ovie Ejaria and Lucas Joao are also up against the clock as they try and make their returns from injury.
Bowen may decide to risk Pele who is unlikely to be here next season, as well as Adam whose future at the club is currently unclear. However, I don’t think we’ll see Yiadom, Ejaria and Joao who could all be key players in the next campaign.
Swansea City: WWLDW
After winning 1-0 at home against Bristol City at the weekend, Steve Cooper’s side have kept their hopes alive of reaching the playoffs. However, their 1-0 home loss to lowly Luton Town at the end of last month must now seem even more frustrating. If they had won that fixture, they would be level on points with Cardiff City right now and putting them under a major amount of pressure.
In fact, their goal difference would have been higher than Cardiff, putting them in pole position to win a playoff place. Given Reading’s poor home form, this would have been a very winnable game. When you look at their results this season, losses have not cost them, it’s the draws. If they can turn draws in to wins more often next season, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the Championship.
Goalkeeper Freddie Woodman is out for the rest of the season after picking up a hip injury against Leeds United earlier on in the month. He is also unlikely to feature even if the Swans make the playoffs, which is a major blow for Cooper. Kyle Naughton will also be absent for the last game of the season after being shown a straight red card against Nottingham Forest.
The last meeting
Swansea City 1-1 Reading
Swansea City got off to a great start when Andrew Ayew’s perfectly-placed cross fell in to the path of Borja Baston to expertly head past Rafael in the Reading goal – giving the home side the lead in the third minute of the match.
When George Puscas missed a wonderful chance from a corner, it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for the Royals in Wales. Despite this, the away side’s luck changed and Rafael was called in action twice to ensure Swansea did not extend their lead.
This proved to be vital, when a great passing sequence between John Swift and Lucas Joao fell in to the path of Andy Yiadom. He made no mistake and struck a wonderful effort across the keeper – making it 1-1.
Looking back at it, this was a great point to pick up from the Liberty Stadium. Steve Cooper’s side have done very well this season despite the loss of Dan James and Oli McBurnie – and they will be hoping they can build on this season for the long-term.
The last match
Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Reading
Ben Brereton and Adam Armstrong put the hosts 2-0 up within six minutes, courtesy of some questionable defending, although John Swift responded less than ten minutes later with a spectacular free-kick.
Blackburn extended their lead through Joe Rothwell just before the hour mark, before headers from Sam Baldock and Yakou Meite within five minutes of each other brought the Royals level once again – and the away side were on the front foot after their resurgence.
However, it was the hosts who would have the last laugh. Sam Gallagher’s headed strike in the 87th minute secured all three points for Tony Mowbray’s men. A disappointing day for defenders, a wonderful outing for the forwards. Unfortunately the Royals were on the wrong side of the scoreline this time.
- Reading have not won against Swansea City in their last 12 meetings. Lol.
- The Royals have also won just 25 points out of a possible 66 at home in the Championship this season.
- Swansea City have lost just two of their ten away games this calendar year. An impressive record.
- The Swans are also unbeaten in 18 of their 22 away matches.
Over the past week, I have been asking Reading fans to sum up the football season in just one sentence. Here’s what they have come up with.
Louis (@dinglouis_): Solid progress.
Luke (@lukerfc08): Topgolf (A).
Yep, I think we’re all missing away days – and just going to games in general!
Joe (@RFCJoeJ): Improvement from last season but the team can’t work well enough together.
Oli (OliB_RFC): The season had great potential with the signings we made – but it was ultimately uninspiring and dull.
Mark (@MarkRobson15/@RGobcast): Bad start, good Christmas - now realising we need a major changes but exciting times ahead though.
Billy (@RFCbilly_): Despite improvement from last season I think it’s been another disappointment season with another low-ish position in the league - a poor start and a bad home record have arguably been the reason for this in my opinion.
Charlie (@chaz_3107): One sentence isn’t enough!
A (@rfc_1871): Immense optimism eventually crushed once again.
Gareth (GarethRG12): Our season has been like a bungee jump, loads of ups and downs but finishing somewhere near the bottom.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Osho, Morrison, McIntyre, Richards, Araruna, Rinomhota, Swift, Olise, Meite, Puscas
Substitutes: Walker, Moore, Gunter, Obita, Pele, Boye, McCleary, Baldock, Nevers
I may as well replace the word ‘likely’ with ‘possible’ – because Mark Bowen could do anything in this last game. The only real certainty is the fact that Rafael is set to start in goal again. What a great replacement he has been for Emi Martinez – especially on a free as well.
After being rested, Gabriel Osho could also return to the side to replace the outgoing Chris Gunter, whilst Omar Richards could come in at left back to replace Tyler Blackett, who is also likely to leave in the next month. One thing that could stay the same is the centre-back pairing of Michael Morrison and Tom McIntyre, who looked pretty decent before the Middlesbrough and Blackburn games.
Felipe Araruna could make an appearance in midfield after returning to the first team squad for the first time in five months, alongside Andy Rinomhota and John Swift in midfield. Both have been key players this season although there are questions marks over their futures – could they move to bigger clubs this summer? I can see the club being keener to retain Rinomhota, who is an academy graduate. He is also likely to be earning less than Swift and our key priority this summer will be reducing our wage bill.
Michael Olise could also start again in place of Ovie Ejaria, who is still likely to join the Royals on a permanent deal this summer. Although there is confusion over whether we had an option or whether it was an obligation to buy, hopefully we can get it signed and sealed.
Another player who deserves plaudits is Yakou Meite. Even though he has his faults, just look at the amount of goals he’s contributed to this season. I have previously described his inclusion in the starting lineup as a marginal gain – but it’s becoming more than marginal now. George Puscas is also likely to start this weekend and has not done too badly in his first season in English football.
There is definitely room for improvement. I hope this season can be the catalyst for him to go on and be a success in English football – providing he is not sold in the summer.
When I predict us to lose, we always seem to win but here is what I can see happening. Swansea, having something to play for unlike Reading, are likely to pick up all three points in Berkshire where the Royals have been poor all season.
However, Cardiff City are also the favourites to win all three points against Hull City to secure their place in the playoffs. This will send the Tigers down – and I really do feel sorry for their fans who have had to endure a tough time under their owners. To go from the Premier League to League One will be gutting for them – but I hope they can keep themselves in the division. I will go for a 2-0 away win in this tie.
Score prediction: Reading 0-2 Swansea City
Other Championship fixtures
All fixtures Wednesday 22nd July (7:30pm KO):
Birmingham City vs Derby County
Brentford vs Barnsley
Bristol City vs Preston North End
Cardiff City vs Hull City
Leeds United vs Charlton Athletic
Luton Town vs Blackburn Rovers
Millwall vs Huddersfield Town
Nottingham Forest vs Stoke City
Sheffield Wednesday vs Middlesbrough
West Bromwich Albion vs Queens Park Rangers
Wigan Athletic vs Fulham
The last thing I want to say is a major thank you for all your support for this site and the podcast this season. Despite the last few years of disappointment, you Royals have remained loyal and we have been rewarded with a more stable, if not spectacular, season in 2019/20.
Last month, the town experienced a major attack at Forbury Gardens and when it mattered most, the whole Reading FC community came together and people have done some amazing things in response to this awful incident. Things like this are bigger than football – but it can just show how we can all collaborate and use the beautiful game to our advantage.
The coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact both physically and mentally – and during that time – the community used this period of no football to check up on people’s wellbeing. I’m part of a Twitter group chat that talks all things Reading FC and I have seen the very best of human nature during this time.
The return of football was well deserved for Reading fans and after 57 games in the 2019/20 season, this chapter is now coming to a close with the 58th and final fixture. Now is the time for us to recharge our batteries, get excited about the next transfer window and look forward to next season. Take care of each other and keep in contact – you can never tire of talking about this football club!
Have a good break!