After experiencing what was probably the lowest point of the season so far on Tuesday night, Reading will be desperate for redemption this weekend as they face Rotherham United away from home.
If the midweek game against Wycombe on Tuesday wasn’t a must win game, surely this is, right? The Royals are currently in grave danger of slipping out the playoff zone unless they pick up their form. And after an amazing start to the season, not finishing in the top six would be massively disappointing – but the team can change the mood entirely today if they manage to win all three points. Will they be able to do it though?
Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of kick off.
What? Championship Matchday 33
Who? Rotherham United
Where? AESSEAL New York Stadium
When? Saturday 27th February 2021
Opposition Manager? Paul Warne
Rotherham United: WWLLL
After losing their last three games, the Millers are in real danger of being relegated straight back to League One again unless they can grind out points from games like today. One saving grace is the games they have in hand in Birmingham as both teams fight for their Championship survival. The Yorkshire side’s main target in the next few years will be to establish themselves as second tier side. Who knows what could happen if they manage to take advantage of their games in hand and secure their safety from the jaws of relegation.
In fairness to Paul Warne’s side, their last three fixtures have been horrible. Their home loss against Cardiff City came as no surprise with Mick McCarthy’s side currently in scintillating form. The other two games were away from home at promotion contenders AFC Bournemouth and Norwich City – and the fact they only lost both these games 1-0 must be a promising sign of things to come as they return to the New York Stadium today. Reading will need to be on top of their game today despite sitting in the relegation zone currently.
Well, Tuesday was an absolute shambles. There’s no escaping it. However, no one player/coach should be blamed entirely for that performance at Adams Park. Everyone needs to take responsibility for that and for some of our recent performances. Ultimately, the buck stops with the manager but we had the ability to get something from that game in midweek and the fact we didn’t just shows there is a long way to go this season. Anything can happen and we need to get back on track sooner rather than later with the teams just outside the playoff zone vying for a place in the top six come the end of the season.
Off the pitch though, things were even worse after full time. Lucas Joao was racially abused and the atmosphere was very, very tense on social media. I don’t blame people for being upset because of how important that game could prove to be. However, there is absolutely no room for racism or personal abuse. We can do better. Today is a new matchday, let’s get behind the boys, make it a healthier environment for the players to operate in before kick off and look forward to the game. #BackTheBoys should be the hashtag to use today ahead of kick off, although I have no doubt some sort of other initiative will be set up after the regrettable events on Tuesday.
For some people, football is their only escape and we must remain positive even in the face of adversity. One bit of news that could help is the possible return of Yakou Meite, as reported by JLow. This could be huge for us, especially with our current lack of width, creativity and goalscoring threat up top, even with Lucas Joao on the pitch. The French winger just offers something that bit different.
The Last Meeting
Reading 3-0 Rotherham United
This was a clinical performance from the home side, with a much improved second half securing another precious three points as Reading extended their lead at the top of the Championship table to five points.
In a first half dominated by Rotherham, the Berkshire side took the lead shortly before half time when Ovie Ejaria’s measured cross found Yakou Meite, who was free in the box to fire home. After missing a gilt-edged chance against Wycombe at home, this was a major boost for the winger, who we sorely miss right now in his absence from the first team.
Meite doubled his tally in the 79th minute, when he acrobatically converted Michael Olise’s corner to seal the game - and Reading would make it 3-0 when Lucas Jaoo converted a spot kick. A similar scoreline would be nice today, although I really doubt it considering the change in mood from earlier on in the season to the current day.
The Last League Match
Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 Reading
I think most Reading fans were nervous ahead of this tie, especially after our result against Middlesbrough – and they were right to be.
After a slow first 15 minutes, Reading grew into the game and came close through Andy Rinomhota but were not able to take the lead before half time. This came back to bite the Royals shortly after the interval as Fred Onyedinma capitalised on hesitancy from Rafael and the defence to put Wycombe 1-0 up.
Reading had a golden chance to get back into the tie when Ryan Tafazolli pulled back Andy Rinomhota, with the former being sent off and a penalty given. However, Lucas Joao missed the spot kick and Wycombe won a penalty of their own shortly after. Rafael made the save from a poor Uche Ikpeazu penalty - but the Royals were unable to make the breakthrough and left Buckinghamshire empty handed.
- As widely reported, Reading have won just eight of their previous 24 league games. This is so frustrating when we can perform like we did at home to AFC Bournemouth.
- The Royals are unbeaten in their last seven meetings against this afternoon’s opponents though. Will Rotherham stop this run today?
- Rotherham United are unbeaten in exactly half (7/14) of their league homes at home so far this season.
- They have scored 20 goals in these 14 games – a stern warning for the Royals’ defence today.
Likely Preferred Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, McIntyre, Morrison, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Olise, Joao, Puscas
Put Ejaria a bit more central where he *could* make more of an impact, utilise the full backs for width whilst Meite is out and have two up top?— Adam GC Jones (@ajonesrfc) February 23, 2021
Or Semedo at the base and Ejaria or Olise out?
Such a hard lineup to predict but we must take the game to them tonight #readingfc pic.twitter.com/fPgLmiiTsQ
Despite Yakou Meite’s rumoured return, I have stuck with the same lineup I suggested on Tuesday as we look to shake things up.
Rafael perhaps could have done better with the goal in midweek – but the entire defence must also take some responsibility for the goal which I can only describe as a hot mess. There continue to be growing calls for Southwood to come in – but it’s quite clear Paunovic isn’t going to give the academy graduate a chance in the Championship just yet. Is this a mistake? Maybe – but we have no idea how Southwood would get on. How can we find out? By giving him that chance. But I’ve stuck with Rafael this weekend.
At left back, Omar Richards has to come back in if I want to play this diamond, just so he can provide us with some width. The same applies to Andy Yiadom, who was half decent going forward against Middlesbrough. At centre back, Tom McIntyre moves back to his original position and Michael Morrison joins him at the heart of defence, although Paunovic will probably stick with his captain in this difficult period. I just think it would be harsh to drop TMac at this stage having done such a good job centrally.
In midfield, Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent retain their places, with Rinomhota one of Reading’s best attacking threats in midweek. Both gave it a real go on Tuesday and are currently undroppable. Joining the duo in the diamond will be Ovie Ejaria who looked a lot better when he played more centrally and Michael Olise as the attacking midfielder providing support to the two strikers.
Lucas Joao and George Puscas are the two strikers I want starting up top, although I back Yakou Meite to come on at some point and make an impact whether he’s out on the wing (if we change the system) or up front. As I said pre-Wycombe, we need to take the game to the opposition today. If we can make a fast start, that could give us confidence to go on and play well for the remainder of the game.
Score prediction time. If Yakou Meite does return in some capacity, I believe he could be the difference, even if we go 1-0 down. I’m not expecting the Royals to win today – but they have the personnel and ability to turn things around. This must be the turning point of the season and I will see you all on the other side for the match report. You thought you had got rid of me for the rest of this weekend? Think again.
Score Prediction: Rotherham United 1-1 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 27th February (3pm KO) unless stated:
AFC Bournemouth vs Watford (12:30pm KO)
Barnsley vs Millwall
Birmingham City vs Queens Park Rangers
Blackburn Rovers vs Coventry City
Brentford vs Stoke City
Luton Town vs Sheffield Wednesday
Middlesbrough vs Cardiff City
Preston North End vs Huddersfield Town
Swansea City vs Bristol City
Wycombe Wanderers vs Norwich City (Sunday 28th February 12pm KO)