After a hugely disappointing period at the Madejski Stadium, Reading are on the road again as they take the short trip to Wycombe Wanderers tonight, in search of a much-needed three points.
However, if the previous meeting between the two sides is anything to go by, this will be a difficult game for the Royals who will need to be wary of the teams just below them outside the playoff zone. And without a key player in John Swift, the away side have lacked creativity in recent games. Can they go on and take the win tonight though? I certainly hope so – let’s hope for a repeat of the Bristol City game.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Bucks-Berks derby.
What? Championship Matchday 32
Who? Wycombe Wanderers
Where? Adams Park
When? Tuesday 23rd February 2021
Opposition Manager? Gareth Ainsworth
Wycombe Wanderers: LLWLD
At this moment in time, Wycombe are currently 11 points from safety with 16 games left to play. Survival is not an impossible target for them – but it’s certainly an uphill battle with many tough fixtures still to come for them this season. And at this stage, draws are simply not enough for them in a busy period with many points up for grabs. Before the next international break at the back end of March, they will want to be within touching distance of 21st place. The Chairboys have eight games to achieve this target. Can they do it? Although I’m obviously hoping they lose tonight, their survival would mean we have a semi-genuine derby to look forward to next season and I wish them the best of luck after this evening for the rest of the campaign.
Former Royals Jordan Obita and Garath McCleary are both in line to feature tonight, with Obita starting against Millwall and McCleary coming off the bench for the final 15 minutes. Would either of them start for Reading tonight though if they were still with us? Obita would be in with a shout after a few wobbly performances from Richards in recent times, although I still believe the latter is the better option for us to have. In terms of McCleary, we desperately need someone out wide to create an impact – but he seemed to lose that extra yard of pace in the final few years he was with us. Would both make the matchday squad though? Perhaps so.
What a disappointing performance on Saturday. After the defeat against Millwall, we were desperate to avoid both a repeat of that performance and three losses at home in a row. Under Veljko Paunovic, I thought we had cracked the home curse – but it seems to be coming back into play again and I hope this doesn’t hamper us for the remainder of the season. The Mad Stad should be a fortress but it’s anything but that at the moment, will we be able to do better away from Berkshire in the next two fixtures? If we are to solidify our place in the playoffs, the Royals will need to win all six points on offer. Cardiff City, Middlesbrough, Stoke City and Barnsley are on our tails now – and it would make things even worse if we don’t get the win tonight. Let’s all get behind the team on social media this evening!
The Royals continue to play in this very busy period with John Swift, who could have been that creative player we need in midfield in place of someone like Alfa Semedo, who is quite clearly not an attacking midfielder. Yakou Meite is also a huge loss to this team. He provides great team spirit, pace, width, a bit extra up front and an option on the bench when we need to change the game. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, his condition is still unknown but hopefully he will be back as soon as possible. His availability for the rest of the season could be a game changer.
For an injury update, visit Jonathan Low’s report where he has updates on Yakou Meite and Felipe Araruna.
The Last Meeting
Reading 1-0 Wycombe Wanderers
Well, fair play to Wycombe, this was a much harder game than we thought it would be after starting the season so well. Reading were not able to break the deadlock before half time – and the nerves started to settle in for the home side.
But just after the hour mark, Liam Moore’s long-range pass found Joao, who turned neatly before firing home underneath Ryan Allsop. Wanderers nearly equalised at the end when Adebayo Akinfenwa’s touch found its way to Fred Onyedinma, whose half volley was smartly saved by Rafael. This was a huge save at such a critical time.
In the end, the Royals held out for the win and stepped it up in the second half to take all three points. It certainly wasn’t our best game – but a win is a win and at the end of the day – that’s all that counts.
The Last League Match
Reading 0-2 Middlesbrough
After a great win at Bristol City, Reading were raring to go for this one and were the better side early on, with Andy Rinomhota dragging a shot just wide.
However, a free kick into the box was headed across goal for Ashley Fletcher to convert in the 22nd minute, courtesy of some poor Reading defending. And Boro would go on to make it two just seven minutes later when Marc Bola’s thunderbolt left Rafael with little chance in the home side’s goal.
Despite a slightly improved second half performance, the Royals barely threatened Middlesbrough’s backline and Marcus Bettinelli had to make a grand total of one save. A much better performance is required tonight. Creativity was severely lacking.
- Reading have conceded seven goals in their last four games. A worrying stat or something to improve on?
- However, the Royals are unbeaten in their last seven fixtures against Wycombe, in a run stretching back to 2000, the year I was born.
- Wycombe have won just one of their eight Championship fixtures in 2021.
- The Chairboys have also scored in just two of their six league games this month. They have two more games in February to improve this record – let’s hope they can’t tonight.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Joao, Puscas
I have to say I’ve been thinking about this starting lineup for a while – and I’m convinced we will need to take the game to Wycombe based off our previous meeting against them so a change in formation and style may be needed. Jaap Stam did it away at Burton Albion in 2017/18, I back Paunovic to do it tonight.
Rafael keeps his place in goal after making some smart stops at the weekend, with Omar Richards at left back providing width down the left hand side, Michael Morrison and Tom McIntyre in the middle and Andy Yiadom at right back who showed promise going forward on Saturday. McIntyre played very well in the second half against Middlesbrough and unless there’s an injury to either him or Morrison, I believe Moore should stay on the bench ready to come on if needed. There have been calls for Tom Holmes to return to the starting lineup and I would not be too against it. However, I would like us to play a diamond in midfield and without the wide threats of Richards and Yiadom, the system wouldn’t function properly.
At the base of this diamond, Alfa Semedo would probably be the ideal candidate but with Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent in the starting lineup, we would risk being too defensive with the Benfica loanee in the 11. Laurent would take up that role in this case, with Ovie Ejaria and Rinomhota in front of him. Rinomhota’s driving runs and Ejaria’s promising performances in a deeper position earlier on in his Reading career could help to unlock Wycombe’s defence, with Michael Olise as the attacking midfielder with little defensive responsibilities. We created so little against Middlesbrough and not enough against Millwall, so is there any point in trying to play wingers whilst Yakou Meite is absent? Probably not. Winning the midfield battle will be key in controlling the game and with four central players and the different strengths they bring, I’m confident we can do just that.
We also need to give Championship defences more to worry about. With the presence of both George Puscas and Lucas Joao up top, we have the potential to cause many problems. Puscas’ sharpness after spending so much time on the sidelines will be a source of concern – but we can only hope his minutes for the U23s against Stoke have only gone on to help him.
With the extra firepower, I believe we can win all three points this evening. Many people probably think this will be an easy tie. The reverse fixture proves it will be anything but that – but let’s get another 2-0 win under our belts. Two goals, a clean sheet and some confidence restored. Now that would be ideal.
I scored three goals in a tournament at Adams Park back in the day, why can’t the Royals pick up a win?
Score Prediction: Wycombe Wanderers 0-2 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
Tuesday 23rd February:
Birmingham City vs Norwich City
Derby County vs Huddersfield Town
Middlesbrough vs Bristol City (All 7pm KO)
Luton Town vs Millwall
Rotherham United vs Nottingham Forest (Both 7:45pm KO)
Wednesday 24th February:
Barnsley vs Stoke City
Brentford vs Sheffield Wednesday
Swansea City vs Coventry City (All 7pm KO)
Blackburn Rovers vs Watford
AFC Bournemouth vs Cardiff City
Preston North End vs Queens Park Rangers (All 7:45pm KO)