Reading face one of their toughest tests of the season so far on Saturday evening, when league leaders Bournemouth come to town. The Cherries are still unbeaten, having picked up 10 wins and four draws, and sit five points clear of second-placed Fulham. That’s quite the form for a team that struggled at times last season, ultimately pipping Reading to a play-off place but losing out themselves.
Tom Crocker, who used to cover Reading for The Wokingham Paper and now covers the Cherries for The Bournemouth Echo, gave us the lowdown on Saturday’s opposition. You can find him on Twitter @TomCrockerEcho.
Top of the table and still unbeaten - what’s prompted Bournemouth’s upturn since last season?
The obvious answer has to be the new boss. Scott Parker came in over the summer, replacing Jonathan Woodgate after his short-term contract ended following defeat in the play-offs.
There has not been a huge turnover of players since then, but the club did lose a few key men in Asmir Begovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Arnaut Danjuma. And those who have come through the door, the likes of Gary Cahill and Ryan Christie, have settled straight in. Parker has worked the players hard since day one of pre-season, and also been able to get the very best out of the club’s talented youngsters with Mark Travers, Jordan Zemura and Jaidon Anthony excelling, so everything has just clicked so far.
How’s Scott Parker got on so far?
Remarkably well. As he referenced quite soon after getting the job, Parker was implementing a completely different style onto the team. I don’t think anybody quite expected this long unbeaten start, which could set a new club record if they avoid defeat at Reading on Saturday.
Whenever you speak to the players they say how intense Parker’s sessions are. There are not many days off, but he has got everybody completely buying into his ideas and the results are showing on the pitch too. He has helped the team find a way to win games not only when they are dominant, but also the occasions which they have had to grind out narrow victories.
Who are the main danger men Reading should look out for?
Dominic Solanke, himself born in Reading, has been on a bit of a hot streak and his goals record speaks for itself this season. Aside from him, Christie has been brilliant since arriving from Celtic, while Philip Billing is always a threat. Zemura bombing on from left-back has also shown he has a goal in him too since breaking into the team this season.
Do the Cherries have any weaknesses the Royals can exploit?
If you look at the table and recent results, you would say not really! But the Championship always throws up surprises and this unbeaten run won’t last forever. The games Bournemouth have struggled in most were probably the away games at Hull and Peterborough, which both ended 0-0 as they failed to find a way to unpick the tightly packed defence.
What have you made of Reading so far?
I’ve not seen a great deal of them this season. Thinking back to last season, I was left really impressed by their performance at Vitality Stadium, despite the defeat, and then they eased to victory in the home fixture.
Despite the long injury list at the moment, there are still a handful of players in that team who I saw first hand covering the club a few years ago – notably Ovie Ejaria, John Swift, Andy Yiadom and Liam Moore. There is a lot of quality and Championship experience in there and particularly Ejaria and Swift can cause any defence in this league problems.
How will the game go, and what will the score be?
Cherries haven’t conceded on the road for six league games on the trot, which is a crazy stat really. I think that may come to an end this weekend, but given their form, it is hard to back against Parker’s side at the moment. So with that in mind I’ll say 2-1 to the visitors.