Reading are in action once again as they face recently-promoted side Blackpool at the Select Car Leasing Stadium tonight, hopeful of winning another three points.
The Royals found it a difficult task to get past previous opponents Barnsley at the weekend, but found a way to break through in the end and will be hoping for a third consecutive league win in their bid to get into the top six.
Against a Neil Critchley side that have started their season off in a promising fashion though, this will be a difficult task and they will be hoping for a reaction to their 2-1 defeat against Nottingham Forest at the weekend. The pressure will be off them as underdogs this evening - but will this help their cause as they look to win all three points?
Can either side claim all three? Who will step up to the plate and prove to be the difference? So many questions, no answers from me unfortunately - let’s wait and see what happens.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of tonight’s tie at the Select Car Leasing Stadium.
What? Championship Matchday 13
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Wednesday 20th October
Opposition Manager? Neil Critchley
Is it just me that counts every win of late as another three points in cushioning a likely points deduction? Perhaps I should be looking up instead of down, especially considering the fact we’re on the verge of breaking into the top six, but our recent form will only help us to (hopefully) secure our Championship safety quite comfortably without any issues or worries.
After the Huddersfield Town game, many people would’ve taken survival all day long. But a lot seems to have changed in a short amount of time and we can only credit Veljko Paunovic and some of the new arrivals for bringing some much-needed energy to the squad.
In the long term though, we need to get these contracts sorted out as soon as possible. I know next to nothing about contract negotiations and the millions of clauses often inserted in them - but let’s hope we can resolve that situation at some point because we won’t have much of a squad left at the end of the season if we don’t. If we can resolve this issue, I’ll be able to sleep a bit better at night. Let’s enjoy the short term - but also have one eye on the bigger picture and our current vulnerability.
Despite recruiting Richard Keogh as an experienced centre-back in the summer, much of Neil Critchley’s recruitment in the previous transfer window was based on younger players and that should set them up well for the longer term.
Critchley has a great track record of working with youngsters from his time at Liverpool, so the Seasiders should have a decent future to look forward to if they can retain him. But whether they can remains to be seen, because it would be seen as a remarkable achievement if he can keep them around midtable.
That would set them up brilliantly for the coming years and after being hamstrung under the Oystons previously, they are now free under fresh ownership and look strong going into the coming months.
They seem to have a vision and a real focus on the long term - and that’s exactly what I want Reading to have when we can finally escape our financial restrictions. We have the academy to do it, now is the time to continue rectifying previous mistakes.
One to Watch: Richard Keogh
You could look at Richard Keogh in one of two ways.
Is he a much-needed member of a reasonably young Blackpool squad and a vastly experience second-tier player? Or is he someone the Royals could get in behind if they target him? The answer is: probably both.
This is why he’s one to watch out for this evening - because his performance could make all the difference this evening. Could Femi Azeez potentially exploit his weaknesses up top?
That remains to be seen.
The Last Meeting
Blackpool 0-2 Reading - FA Cup Replay
- Reading have conceded just one goal in their last four games. If my maths is right, that’s over 360 minutes of Championship football. Impressive.
- The Royals are unbeaten in their last five competitive games against tonight’s opponents.
- Blackpool have scored in each one of their last five Championship fixtures. Can Reading really keep a clean sheet tonight?
- However, tonight’s visitors have only won one of their six away games in the second tier so far this season.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Yiadom, Drinkwater, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Dele-Bashiru, Azeez
Luke Southwood was brilliant against on Saturday afternoon and keeps his place because of his recent performances. In fact, his performances have been so good that he probably has enough credit in the bank to make a big mistake and still keep his place in the team. He has been outstanding recently though and could be a vital asset once again this evening.
Baba Rahman also starts once again after showing real flashes of quality, with Scott Dann playing extremely well on his debut alongside Liam Moore who is benefitting from his centre-back partner’s Premier League experience. Andy Yiadom was also fantastic at the weekend and deserved a lot more credit than he got, committing himself to every challenge and remaining solid defensively. He was another contender for man of the match.
Again, Danny Drinkwater has to keep his place in the starting lineup after another good performance in the middle of the park. Josh Laurent was one man who didn’t perform so well, but gets another chance to shine in the middle of the park. Both need to make sure they’re sound defensively though with the gaps that were exposed at times at the weekend. It nearly proved to be costly.
It would also be good to see Ovie Ejaria gain some sort of consistency. He starts again with others unavailable, but it’s clear he needs to put a string of good performances together every once in a while if he wants to make the step up to the Premier League at some point, because he’s capable of doing it.
One man who I thought did a reasonably decent job out on the right was Tom Dele-Bashiru - and was unlucky not to grab our opening goal at the weekend. It definitely looks onside from what I’ve seen, but thankfully that didn’t matter in the end.
It’s barely worth me mentioning this, but of course John Swift remains in the middle after recording his 13th goal contribution of the season in 12 matches.
In fact, the only change that can be made from Saturday is Femi Azeez coming in for George Puscas. The former may be better as an impact player to be more effective, but it just isn’t working for the latter up top and something needs to change.
Moving on to the score prediction, I think this is going to be a really tough game, and a tougher match than most Reading fans will be expecting against a recently-promoted side. I’m going for a 2-1 win - but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this game end up as a draw, especially if we perform how we did for large parts of Saturday.
Score Prediction: Reading 2-1 Blackpool
Other Championship Fixtures
All Wednesday 20th October (7:45pm KO) unless stated:
Fulham vs Cardiff City
Huddersfield Town vs Birmingham City
Hull City vs Peterborough United
Middlesbrough vs Barnsley
Preston North End vs Coventry City
Swansea City vs West Bromwich Albion