Reading travel up to Lancashire this weekend as they face Preston North End at Deepdale, in front of the Sky Sports TV cameras looking for another three points.
The Royals will be buzzing after their 3-0 win against Coventry City week, making up for their 3-2 loss in the reverse fixture last October. Revenge month continues after a disappointing home loss against Preston earlier on in the season - with AFC Bournemouth still to play in January and Stoke City and Brentford (potentially) coming up early on next month. Can they get another win though after their win at Deepdale last season? Let’s hope so.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this important clash.
What? Championship Matchday 25
Who? Preston North End
Where? Deepdale Stadium
When? Sunday 24th January 2021
Opposition Manager? Alex Neil
Preston North End: WWLLW
Preston have had no problems whatsoever in picking up points away from home in 2020/21, as we found out in November when they gave us an almighty walloping in the second half in Berkshire. In the preview before that game, I said: “Another player who may come back to haunt Reading is Scott Sinclair, who scored a hat-trick in *that* playoff final against Swansea City. Please don’t do this, Scott, you’ve caused enough damage as it is”. Well, it’s safe to say Sinclair ignored this request as he scored the opener for Preston - and from there - the away side went on to dominate the rest of the match.
The Lilywhites even won their last game against Birmingham City at St Andrew’s, with that man Sinclair getting on the scoresheet just past the hour mark. They will be hoping for a similar result this weekend, although their home form has let them down so far this season. If they can improve their record at Deepdale in the near future, there’s no reason why they cannot make a charge for the playoffs. Their club is the definition of a stable ship – but now is the time for them to keep pushing up the table. Anything could happen, especially in the playoffs.
Two wins out of two in the league so far in 2021. So far, so good. Even though we had a 1-0 lead at half time, we simply had to improve with Coventry playing well up until that point. There was also one substitution Veljko Paunovic needed to make - Tom Holmes had to make way for Tomas Esteves after picking up a yellow card in the first half. The former was even lucky not to be sent off and, in all honesty,, it was not the academy graduate’s best game. Thankfully, the manager made the change and we stepped up in the second half to put the game beyond doubt - so overall - it was a productive night for the Berkshire side.
One thing that took the gloss of the victory was Michael Olise’s shoulder injury, something he picked up when he was fouled by Kyle McFadzean on the edge of the box. Fair play to the young French midfielder, he carried on for a bit - but it was clear we was in some discomfort. Lucas Joao managed to escape the game unscathed though, as well as John Swift who played an integral part in the victory. Both are likely to start again - and it will only be a matter of time before some of the injured players make their way back to the first team.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-3 Preston North End
After conceding three goals against Coventry City in the game previous to this tie, we would have wanted to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
Lucas Joao came closest to opening the scoring for the Royals in the first 45 – but a second half capitulation consigned the Royals to their second loss of the season. The home side thought they had got lucky when Rafael saved Daniel Johnson’s weak penalty but Scott Sinclair, Emil Riis Jakobsen and Brad Potts ensured that it would be the away side that took all three points back to Lancashire.
I beg we put in a better performance!
The Last League Match
Reading 3-0 Coventry City
Reading suffered a shaky start and also fell behind twice before a wonderful ball from John Swift landed at the feet of Lucas Joao, who shrugged off former Royal Dominic Hyam and finished well to put the home side 1-0 up. Two controversial decisions followed - with no second booking for Tom Holmes and no penalty for a foul on Lucas Joao - but the scored stayed at 1-0 at half time.
However, the Royals made it two within a minute when Lucas Joao’s cut back was missed by Ovie Ejaria but slotted home by Andy Rinomhota to make things just a bit more comfortable, before Kyle McFadzean was sent off for a second bookable offence after tripping up Ejaria. The resulting free kick was converted wonderfully by John Swift - and it would have even been four for the Royals if Sam Baldock had converted his one-on-one.
A win is a win though, with a clean sheet as a nice little bonus. No complaints here - but let’s start with a bit more intensity and concentration from the off. Reading scored two within 16 minutes at Deepdale last season, can we do something similar this time?
- Preston have been quite poor at home so far this season, winning 13 points from a possible 36 at Deepdale in 2020/21.
- The Lilywhites have also scored just ten goals in these 12 home matches, pretty poor compared to their good away form.
- Reading have won five of their last six fixtures against Preston North End. Can we win again?
- The Royals have also kept 4 clean sheets in their last 17 league games - something we could definitely improve on. Our attack is doing just fine at the moment but keeping it tight at the back is just as important - and I back Tom McIntyre and Michael Morrison to continue forming a decent partnership.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Holmes, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Aluko, Joao
After a great win on Tuesday night, I have made just the one change this weekend as we face a tough test against the Lilywhites.
Rafael Cabral starts in goal again after a faultless performance in goal in midweek, although the only notable save he really made was in the first two minutes when Holmes made a mistake. However, he got down well and distributed the ball reasonably well in general - let’s hope he doesn’t have to be called into action much this weekend, it would be a good sign.
Omar Richards remains at left back, with Michael Morrison and Tom McIntyre continuing as the partnership in defence in Liam Moore’s absence - and Tom Holmes on the right-hand side as he looks to put in an improved performance.
Quite simply, he has to or he faces losing his place to Tomas Esteves, who has done very well recently after a tough start to life in England for the teenager - and did reasonably well against Coventry. There was one particular defensive moment in the second half when he headed the ball out of play from a cross instead of heading it back in to the danger area, something he may have done earlier on in the campaign. I have criticised some of his performances in the past - but he’s doing very well right now as a promising 18-year-old.
In midfield, you know the drill. Andy Rinomhota, Josh Laurent - lovely. Alfa Semedo and Dejan Tetek are likely to be on the bench as backup options, with Joh Swift able to drop in to a deeper midfield role if needed. However, there’s no need to tinker with it right now because both Rinomhota and Laurent have been consistently exception so far in 2020/21. Laurent really is that missing piece to the puzzle.
In front of them, Ovie Ejaria and John Swift retain their places in the starting lineup, with Sone Aluko coming in to give Michael Olise’s shoulder a rest and to perhaps provide a bit more width out on the right. Who knows, maybe Aluko could be the difference?
Up top, Lucas Joao gets the nod again with George Puscas out for the foreseeable future. Once again, Joao showed his worth with a goal and an assist on Tuesday - and he might be a key figure again. The man is a machine, the most complete striker we have had in years and if he performs consistently for us over the next couple of years - perhaps one of the best strikers this club has ever had. This isn’t even hyperbole, he has been immense.
Moving on, it’s time to do the score prediction. I personally think this will be a close tie, with both sides looking to pick up all three points. Preston will be disappointed if they don’t because of their emphatic 3-0 win at the Madejski Stadium early on in the season - and Reading would be disappointed simply because they are in the promotion race right now and every point counts at the business end of the season. Therefore, I think it’ll be a draw - 0-0 is what I’ll go for. Cue a goal in the opening minute then...
Score Prediction: Preston North End 0-0 Reading
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