Despite a very disheartening draw against Cardiff on Friday night, Reading need to pick themselves up tonight as they face Luton Town in Bedfordshire this evening.
Some Royals fans are saying the season is already done, but hey, let’s see what we can do tonight. With just four games left to go this season, we need to make the very most of football whilst it’s still here, and I’m really looking forward to this tie. A repeat of the 5-0 last season may not be on the cards - but the away side will want to get three points again to end a poor run of form. Who will come out on top tonight though? Hopefully, it’s the Royals.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of tonight’s Championship clash.
What? Championship Matchday 43
Who? Luton Town
Where? Kenilworth Road
When? Wednesday 21st April 2021
Opposition Manager? Nathan Jones
Luton Town: WLLWW
There’s one interesting stat I would like to point out with Luton. They haven’t drawn any of their last ten league matches. Although some people would say this could be a massive source of frustration after losing by a one-goal margin to both Swansea City and Barnsley recently, they have managed to pick up six wins in this run, winning four of these games by just one goal. As we have found out this season, draws sometimes turn out to be the killer for sides at both ends of the Championship - and the Hatters’ impressive position in midtable could be explained by their ability to turn draws into wins.
At this stage, they have a real chance of finishing as high as eighth, a monumental achievement for a side who were in League One not so long ago. Then again, Nathan Jones and Luton seem to be a match made in heaven and another win tonight after their victory against Watford will send a major warning to the teams around them. Their job over the next season or two will then be to establish themselves as a side who are here to stay in the Championship for the long-term. I back them to do it under this manager - and may not fall back through the trap door anytime soon after initially struggling to find their feet under Graeme Jones at the start of last season.
Three points were desperately needed on Friday night. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get them and were lucky to come out with just one in the end. After that performance, it just feels like Veljko Paunovic needs to roll the dice tonight, something he’s often reluctant to do with late substitutions. Whether it’s a formation/system change or an alteration in personnel, Reading fans would at least give Pauno some credit if he changes something - what do we have to lose at this point? We’re now firm underdogs for the playoffs. If the changes work, great. If they don’t, then we know what not to do next season.
One player facing a while on the sidelines is Lucas Joao, who dislocated his shoulder getting a shot off on Friday. After going for quite a long time without an injury, this must be gutting for the Portuguese striker who would have wanted to end his season on a high note after being out of form for so long. Thankfully, he was discharged from hospital last night and will now begin his recovery from this frustrating injury. Hopefully, he can come back stronger and to be fair to him, he managed to recover very quickly from a similar injury earlier on in 2020/21. It’s currently unknown when he will be back though.
The Last Meeting
Luton Town 1-0 Reading
George Moncur’s volley in the 30th minute proved to be the difference between the two sides, although Reading should have at least taken this game to extra time. Were Sone Aluko or Tomas Esteves at fault for this one? One of them probably was.
And Aluko had a glorious chance to equalise in the second half, along with Jayden Onen and Nahum Melvin-Lambert, who hit the post late on before Onen blazed over.
Overall though, this was a proud day for the Reading academy and ended the game with the following players on the pitch: Southwood, Bristow, McIntyre, Dorsett, Esteves, Pendlebury, Lawless, Tetek, Onen, Camara, Melvin-Lambert.
That’s ten academy graduates, with Michael Olise also on the pitch earlier on in the game before being replaced by Melvin-Lambert. And with Tom Holmes, Coniah Boyce-Clarke and Imari Samuels as unused substitutes on the bench, as well as Gabriel Osho playing for Luton, this game was an academy graduate festival.
The Last League Match
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City
Well, that first half isn’t even worth talking about, is it? I almost fell asleep halfway through. Neither side offered anything - and both sides needed to vastly improve in the second half. Whilst Cardiff were effective at nullifying us, they had to offer more going forward.
And although the home side improved shortly after the interval, all the drama would come late on. Cardiff thought they had won it in the 87th minute, when Kieffer Moore converted a penalty he won after being fouled by Omar Richards in the box. However, Reading equalised in the dying seconds when Sam Baldock turned a defender and delivered a great cross for Yakou Meite to head in.
Maybe it was because of Joao’s injury, but I didn’t feel the same buzz I usually would with a late equaliser. We needed those three points though - and unfortunately we fell short.
- Luton Town have conceded just five goals in their last six league games, keeping clean sheets in three of those matches.
- The Hatters have also beaten four teams out of the current top six this season - having been victorious over Norwich City, Watford, Barnsley and AFC Bournemouth.
- Reading have won their last three league games against tonight’s opponents.
- The Royals have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their last seven Championship games. We need to improve this record for sure.
My Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Holmes, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Meite, Puscas
With an injury up top and John Swift’s return, I have gone with two changes to the starting lineup for tonight’s game as Reading look to get back on track.
Rafael put in another good performance on Friday and was one of the only players who could come out of Friday’s game with any credit. If the last couple of games do turn into dead rubbers, don’t be surprised to see Luke Southwood come in for a game or two. If I’m right in saying, Southwood’s contract expires in the summer and Pauno may want to have a closer look at him in a match situation. Training is one thing - Championship action is a whole different kettle of fish. But for now, Rafa keeps his place.
Omar Richards keeps his place at left back, although Ethan Bristow could be given a go along with Southwood if we have nothing to play for. One player who is likely to keep his place regardless is Andy Yiadom, who may face some competition from Felipe Araruna if he manages to get back to full fitness before the season ends. Tom Holmes continues at centre back in place of Michael Morrison, with Liam Moore alongside him looking to lead his troops to victory. Could Jeriel Dorsett make it on to the bench in place of Lewis Gibson at some point before the end of the season? Who knows?
In midfield, Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota continue as a partnership, although they were broken up temporarily late on against Cardiff City, with the latter making way for John Swift late on. However, Swift still makes it in my team tonight in a more advanced role. The reason why? I saw a Cardiff player go past Swift like he wasn’t even there on Friday - and I don’t fancy seeing that again. Whilst he’s still getting up to speed, let’s keep him in attacking midfield.
Either side of him, Ovie Ejaria and Yakou Meite make the cut. Michael Olise drops to the bench, although I back him to come on and make a real impact late on
Up front, George Puscas starts in place of an injured Lucas Joao. Puscas was one of the men to get on the scoresheet in the same fixture last season and will be hoping to get another goal or two tonight. He could be vital to his team today, along with Yakou Meite who scored the other four in the 5-0 victory. Sam Baldock, who has impressed in the last couple of games with his little cameos, will also be an option off the bench if things aren’t going to plan.
Score prediction time. I’m backing the boys to get all three points tonight. A response is needed after a poor run of form and with John Swift back and able to make a real difference, a 2-1 win could be on the cards. Yakou Meite and George Puscas will be the scorers for me, although I’m not convinced we’ll be able to keep a clean sheet. At this stage of this season though, a win is a win. Does anything else really matter?
Score Prediction: Luton Town 1-2 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All Wednesday 21st April unless stated:
Millwall vs AFC Bournemouth
Rotherham United vs Middlesbrough (Both 6pm KO)
Stoke City vs Coventry City
Wycombe Wanderers vs Bristol City (Both 7pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Nottingham Forest
Huddersfield Town vs Barnsley (Both 7:45pm KO)