Reading finally get the chance to return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium this weekend as they welcome managerless West Bromwich Albion to Berkshire.
Following Steve Bruce’s dismissal earlier this week, under-21s coach Richard Beale has been tasked with leading the senior team into battle and will be hoping to guide his side to a much better position today. Currently in the relegation zone, they are in desperate need of picking up points sooner rather than later to remain above the likes of Huddersfield Town and Coventry City, whilst also looking up at those they could potentially overtake before the World Cup break arrives.
Ahead of kick-off, we have some facts and thoughts.
What? Championship Matchday 14
Who? West Bromwich Albion
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 15th October
Opposition Manager? Richard Beale (caretaker)
The QPR result was frustrating - but it wasn’t our worst performance of the campaign and the fact we were level with the hosts for so long is something we can take heart from. However, Michael Beale’s side fully deserved the three points in the end so we can’t really have any complaints, at least in my opinion. But today is a new day and if we can get another point or three on the board, it will be another step towards survival.
Getting us into the best possible position ahead of the World Cup has to be the short-term priority at the moment - because it will end up being a very long and torturous break if we don’t do well during this set of games. Winning four points from our last three games, I’d take that sort of form from now until the break to ensure we’re still in a reasonably healthy position next month.
Touching on injuries, it was always going to be a matter of time before Sam Hutchinson got injured. We needed to manage his game time but limited options made this difficult, so I’ll give the club a free pass on this one. The other injuries are extremely frustrating though.
Albion weren’t exactly the in the best shape before Ron Gourlay came along, with the supporters’ relationship with the board appearing fractured even before his appointment as CEO.
However, things have only got worse under him and the fact he didn’t even undertake a proper search for a new manager back in February is horrific. How an earth he’s back in football is a mystery to me. He may have a decent CV - but his time with us should have been a gigantic red flag to the Baggies.
You have to feel for the supporters - because they were in the Premier League not so long ago, have the players needed to be pushing at the right end of the division and have a huge amount of potential in the long term with the likes of Taylor Gardner-Hickman and Reyes Cleary at their disposal.
What they need now is a manager who’s up to the job and a Director of Football. It was clear to most that Bruce needed to spend time out of the game following his departure, so how Gourlay came to the decision to appoint him remains to be seen.
Pre-Match Thoughts: Jed Wallace
If we can find a way of shoehorning the winger into our team, I wouldn’t mind having him.
He’s probably been one of Albion’s better performers this season despite their struggles, proving to be a real asset in the final third and beginning life at The Hawthorns a lot better than John Swift has been able to.
Getting himself on the scoresheet a few times too, the Baggies will be extremely grateful to have him at their disposal and he’s someone I’d like at the SCL Stadium. There’s little chance of it happening anytime soon - but we can dream!
Here’s how he could potentially fit in:
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-1 West Bromwich Albion
Starting XI: Lumley, Guinness-Walker, McIntyre, Holmes, Yiadom, Hoilett, Loum, Fornah, Ince, Carroll, Long
Joe Lumley was probably one of our better performers against his former side at Loftus Road and he deserves to keep his place once more, although I still worry about his tendency to make costly errors.
Nesta Guinness-Walker continues on the left again with Junior Hoilett coming back in on the right in place of Sam Hutchinson - and Andy Yiadom slots into central defence once more alongside Tom McIntyre and Tom Holmes. McIntyre has been very decent in recent games - but consistency is key.
It’s perhaps cruel to take out Jeff Hendrick but it does feel as though we need a physical figure in midfield like Mamadou Loum in Hutchinson’s absence. Loum didn’t perform brilliantly last Friday though and will need to raise his game. Tyrese Fornah starts alongside him as someone who can sit back but can also be an asset in the final third.
It does feel as though we need to take the game to Albion and stamp our authority on the game to give us the best chance of winning three points, so Tom Ince drops back to the advanced midfield role with Andy Carroll and Shane Long up front.
It may be naïve to start Long considering he’s spent a considerable amount of time out of action (and the fact I moan about injuries regularly), but it’s exciting to have him back. If he isn’t fully fit, get Lucas Joao in.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
It’s prediction time for this weekend’s round of Championship fixtures!
Luton Town 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rotherham United 0-0 Huddersfield Town
Bristol City 2-1 Millwall
Burnley 3-2 Swansea City
Cardiff City 1-1 Coventry City
Middlesbrough 0-1 Blackburn Rovers
Preston North End 1-1 Stoke City
Sheffield United 2-1 Blackpool
Sunderland 2-1 Wigan Athletic
Watford 2-0 Norwich City
Hull City 0-2 Birmingham City