After a hugely disappointing draw against Queens Park Rangers (never thought I’d have said that at 2pm on Saturday), Reading return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium against a Peterborough United side who are also struggling at this moment in time.
The manner in which we conceded two late goals against QPR from a strong position was especially disappointing - but scoring doesn’t seem to be much of a problem and the Royals will be hoping to utilise that with tonight’s opponents conceding six goals at Sheffield United last weekend. They did score twice at Bramall Lane though and they will also fancy their chances against a woeful Reading defence. But who will come out on top in what could prove to be a crucial tie in the race for survival at this early stage of the season?
Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this midweek clash.
What? Championship Matchday 7
Who? Peterborough United
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Tuesday 14th September
Opposition Manager? Darren Ferguson
What a disappointment on Saturday afternoon. After going 3-1 up in the 77th minute, the Royals needed to see that out and take all three points, even against a side as capable as Queens Park Rangers. The choice to bring Tom Holmes on for our only striker in George Puscas was nothing short of a disaster, so in that sense, Veljko Paunovic has to take a sizeable proportion of the responsibility for conceding a stoppage-time equaliser.
However, you also have to look at the likes of Liam Moore and Michael Morrison. I’ve been heavily critical of Moore during the 2021/22 campaign but what about Morrison as well? Scott Dann is very much-needed at this moment in time, so let’s hope he’s available for tonight. If not, we could be in big trouble.
The Puscas debate is also an interesting one. He may not be able to score right now - but more attention needs to be focused on the backline until we can improve our defensive record. Right now, we have little option but to play the 25-year-old, so the fans need to continue getting behind him until January and beyond with no new forward coming in.
In a way, I feel sorry for the Romanian because he can be fantastic at times and was even pretty decent against QPR. Let’s just hope he can get on the scoresheet tonight and after seeing Peterborough conceded six on Saturday, he will probably fancy his chances.
If I had one bit of advice for Reading tonight, it would be to keep an eye on Peterborough’s attack. They may have conceded six at the weekend - but they did score twice at Bramall Lane and this should be a warning to a Reading defence that has been extremely leaky so far this season.
Having the likes of Siriki Dembele, Jack Marriott and Jonson Clarke-Harris up top as options can allow the Posh to be a dangerous team against any second-tier side, so it would be impressive and a much-needed confidence boost if we were to keep a clean sheet tonight. It’s unlikely - but there’s always a chance and the Royals owe the fans an impressive defensive performance after conceding so many this term.
Oh, and if their late winner against Derby County last month is anything to go by, they have a fantastic team spirit. That’s another thing we need to be aware of.
One To Watch: Jonson Clarke-Harris
After scoring 31 goals in 45 League One games last term, he has to be the man to look out for today, alongside Siriki Dembele.
Although Clarke-Harris started on the bench against Sheffield United and could be a substitute again tonight, you can never rule out the 27-year-old coming on a making a real impact.
His first goal of the season came via a penalty at the weekend - and will be eager to build on that at the Select Car Leasing Stadium this evening. He may even come in for one of Marriott or Dembele after scoring in South Yorkshire, but either way, he’s likely to get at least a decent chunk of game time tonight barring any injury.
Whoever’s in the Royals’ backline, you need to keep an eye on him because any chance of a clean sheet will be gone if you don’t, judging from his scoring record last season.
The Last Meeting
Peterborough United 6-0 Reading
- Reading have now conceded three or more goals in FIVE of their seven competitive matches this term. Shambles.
- To be fair, they have scored ten goals. That’s more than third-placed Stoke City (9). Just shows there are no real problems in attack at this stage.
- The Royals are unbeaten in 12 of their last 16 meetings with tonight’s opponents.
- Peterborough United conceded six goals at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United at the weekend - but have still conceded two less than us in the Championship this season.
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Yiadom, Dele-Bashiru, Laurent, Ejaria, Swift, Halilovic, Puscas
No arrogance intended here, but we should be sticking with four at the back at home to pressurise Peterborough United as much as possible. We know we can’t rely on the defence to keep a clean sheet, so it will simply be a matter of our scoring the opposition in this one.
So it turns out our first-choice goalkeeper punched a whiteboard, so Luke Southwood starts between the sticks.
Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom retain their places at full-back. I worry about how their ability to retain their fitness through the 2021/22 season, especially with international duty, but we have no other option than to start both right now as orthodox options in their positions. None of us want to see Yiadom on the left side and Holmes on the right again, so we can only hope Rahman can remain healthy.
In the centre, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Veljko Paunovic gamble with Scott Dann alongside Liam Moore. There are question marks over the 34-year-old’s fitness - but we need something new in central defence to shake things up. Michael Morrison performed particularly poorly against QPR, so he arguably deserves to be dropped for this one. Paunovic’s job is hanging by a thread after all, so it’s probably worth the gamble on Dann at this stage.
In midfield, Tom Dele-Bashiru did well enough to retain his place in the starting lineup alongside Josh Laurent, so we could potentially see Andy Rinomhota and Danny Drinkwater on the bench for this game. Even if Rinomhota is fully fit to start in this match, you’d probably stick with Dele-Bashiru.
John Swift also starts, although we will all be wary of his injury concerns from last season. Let’s hope he can stay fit as one of several crucial first-team members. Ovie Ejaria and Alen Halilovic line up alongside Swift, with the latter providing a magnificent assist for the first Reading goal at the weekend.
All three will be hoping to provide George Puscas with a goal - and that’s all he needs now after putting in a decent shift on Saturday.
Can we get the victory though? That’s the important question. You can’t be confident as a Reading fan right now after recent results - but we’ve got to have some optimism and with the new signings continuing to settle in - hopefully they can help to make the difference this evening. Don’t rule out Puscas getting on the scoresheet - and I fancy Halilovic to be heavily involved too.
Let’s go with a bold 3-1 Reading win. Optimism for a change, but that’s exactly what we need in our current situation. That sort of result is also needed - let’s get it done boys!
Score Prediction: Reading 3-1 Peterborough United
Other Championship Fixtures
Tuesday 14th September:
Blackburn Rovers vs Hull City
Blackpool vs Huddersfield Town
AFC Bournemouth vs Queens Park Rangers
Sheffield United vs Preston North End (All 7:45pm KO)
West Bromwich Albion vs Derby County (8pm KO)
Wednesday 15th September:
Birmingham City vs Fulham
Bristol City vs Luton Town
Coventry City vs Cardiff City
Nottingham Forest vs Middlesbrough
Stoke City vs Barnsley
Swansea City vs Millwall (All 7:45pm KO)