Reading are back at the Mad Stad after a 5-0 drubbing of Luton Town at the weekend. This time the opposition are Huddersfield Town, another struggling side, but in with a real chance of survival under up-and-coming manager Danny Cowley.
How had your season gone up until lockdown?
Terribly, to be honest. To be seven games into the season and only have one point, from the game at QPR, was worrying. I think I can speak for most Huddersfield fans when I say that doing a ‘Sunderland’ seemed a real possibility, and still is. We’ve been playing catch up ever since really and that’s why our season has been so bad.
The Cowley brothers have come in and even though we’re still around the relegation zone, they’ve made us competitive and that’s what we wanted so badly from the lacklustre side at the start of the season. We still throw in bad performances now and again, but I think that’s to be expected given how much of a battering we had last season in the Premier League, it zaps your confidence.
What about after the restart?
The restart back hasn’t been great for Town, with defeats to Wigan and Nottingham Forest. It’s not so much the results, it’s how we played, being the architects of our downfall by giving easy opportunities for our opponents to capitalise on. The 3-0 win against Birmingham gave our fans a much-needed boost for the relegation run-in, but Birmingham didn’t turn up. Still, you have to beat what’s in front of you. The less said about the boring 0-0 draw against Preston, the better but we look like we’re going to give it a fight to stay up.
What do you make of the job Danny Cowley’s done at Huddersfield so far?
I was pleased when we got the Cowleys because they were my first choice. Young and upcoming managers who engaged with the fanbases of whichever club they went to, and had the success as well. Their job this season has been to consolidate the team and if you started the table since they joined, we’d be 12th in the league. I hope they can push on next season and I’m confident they will if we stay up, but that’s a big if at the moment with the teams around us putting up a strong fight.
I think considering the circumstances, a pretty good job to be honest, 6.5/10. Given how we’ve been playing catch up, we’ve not really seen the Cowleys’ style, they seem to watch how the first 15 minutes of the game go and adapt where necessary. The games where we’ve performed well is when we start on the front foot, like Birmingham so I’d hope for the same against Reading.
What have you made of Reading this season?
Given the money you spent before the start of the season on forwards, George Puscas and Lucas Joao, I expected you to be higher up the table but I think you’re one of those sides where it’s just not clicked for you. You looked in trouble with your previous manager but Mark Bowen seems to have steadied the ship.
Given how open the Championship is this season, you seem to be one of the sides that could be eighth or 18th. When you came to play us at the John Smith’s Stadium, I thought you had a solid game plan. Defend well like any away side would, wait until we tired and then pick us off after we gave up after 60 minutes.
What are the main strengths of this Huddersfield side?
It’s difficult to identify our strengths as we fluctuate from game to game between being ok and incredibly mediocre. Emile Smith Rowe is a terrific young talent, who drives at players and will definitely not be playing in the Championship next season. Karlan Grant hasn’t really clicked since lockdown but when he gets into the right areas, cutting in from his left position, he can make something out of nothing. Harry Toffolo, our left back, is great for an overlap too and as highlighted in the Birmingham game, can deliver a quality set piece.
Our defence - we look shaky at set pieces and give away too many headers from crosses. Prior to the Preston and Birmingham matches, Christopher Schindler has looked vulnerable and easy to push off the ball. We’re not a physical team either so if Reading are a side that can get physical, we don’t have a lot of players up for the challenge.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
Prior to your match against Luton, I fancied our chances as on paper you have nothing to play for, but a great win like that has made me nervous. Huddersfield never make it easy for themselves and I expect this game to be no different.
It entirely depends if Reading are up for it to be honest, if we score first it depends how much you want it really because we can be got at but I’d expect us to hold our nerve more. If you score first, I think you’ll win the match. I’ll sit on the fence and say 1-1 and I’d snap your hand off for anything more.