Reading play under the floodlights tonight as they face off against automatic promotion contenders AFC Bournemouth, another tough away game in the Royals’ quest for survival.
The Cherries did Paul Ince’s men a favour at the weekend when they overcame relegation battlers Derby County, but with the Royals’ horrific defensive record, many people would put their mortgage on a home win tonight. Thankfully, the game isn’t played on paper, but it looks set to be an uphill task for the Berkshire side who are currently without one of their main creators in John Swift and looked doomed at this stage.
Is a resurrection on the cards though? It looks unlikely in this one - but let’s see how it goes.
For now, here’s everything you need to know ahead of this clash on the south coast.
What? Championship Matchday 37
Who? AFC Bournemouth
Where? Vitality Stadium
When? Tuesday 15th March 2022
Opposition Manager? Scott Parker
There’s no doubt that the Cherries do have frailties - and they have been exposed in 2022 with their loss to Boreham United in the FA Cup and their 2-2 draw against strugglers Peterborough United. Those two results will give this evening’s visitors some confidence - but they will be reasonably assured themselves after an impressive victory over Derby last time out. The two sides may be at opposite ends of the table but Wayne Rooney’s men have proven to be a tough nut to crack for much of the campaign, so to get a victory would have been a morale-booster. And let’s face it, they won’t have a better opportunity to get three points than tonight considering how woeful we have been this season.
It will be interesting to see which formation they go with in this one. Although they have operated with a back four numerous times, they can also play a back three and with the likes of Jordan Zemura and Ethan Laird at their disposal, they could easily adopt them as wing-backs to provide a real wide threat. Some would argue they don’t need to play three centre-backs against Reading - but operating with a back three doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be defensive. After a recruitment drive in late January, they certainly have the squad depth there to make tactical tweaks, though manager Parker may not want to change too much.
Although many people would point out the fact we only conceded one before half-time at the City Ground as an achievement, that was Forest’s poorest half in quite a while, certainly from what I’ve seen of them anyway. They weren’t on it at all - and that’s the only reason why we didn’t fall further behind in the opening 45. They did get their act together in the second half - but they arguably should have scored more and would have been disappointed not to, a damning indictment of the visitors’ performance and where they are currently at.
Some of what Ince (senior) is saying is correct - but he also needs to shoulder some of the blame for that defeat because we were nothing short of toothless going forward. It was a very poor performance and as touched upon yesterday at TTE, it’s quite alarming that there hasn’t been a big improvement in performances from the Veljko Paunovic era. I honestly would have gone with a back five at the weekend with Andy Yiadom on the left to try and deal with Djed Spence. Having Tom McIntyre out there was a catastrophe and is exactly why we conceded that opening goal so quickly. It was shocking - and a big improvement is needed tonight.
One To Watch: Dominic Solanke
Solanke has to get a mention, purely because he’s been sensational again this season but hasn’t been mentioned as much because of the goalscoring prowess of Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Blackburn Rovers’ Ben Brereton Diaz.
Although the likes of Philip Billing and Jaidon Anthony have been able to help him out in the goalscoring department, he has been a key cog in their machine and without him, they look a far less dangerous side with Kieffer Moore still out of action.
Last summer’s sale of Arnaut Danjuma would have been a lot more painful if Solanke wasn’t firing on all cylinders during this campaign, but he has done well and will be rightly lauded if the Cherries were to achieve promotion at the end of the season.
He certainly deserves it for his contribution to the cause and the good news for the forward is the fact they are currently favourites along with Fulham to secure a top-two spot.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-2 AFC Bournemouth
- Bournemouth have gone unbeaten in 15 of their 18 league games at the Vitality Stadium this season. That just reinforces the challenge the Royals face tonight.
- However, they have failed to keep a clean sheet in six of their last seven competitive matches. That clean sheet came against Derby at the weekend.
- Reading have kept a clean sheet in just one of their 15 competitive games this term, an awful record and they were even lucky to secure a goalless draw against Peterborough.
- They have also scored just three goals in their opening four games under Ince. Has our attack worsened with him at the helm? It looks like it.
My lineup: Nyland, Yiadom, Dann, McIntyre, Morrison, Ince, Rinomhota, Laurent, Ejaria, Barker, Joao
In goal, Orjan Nyland comes in for his debut with Luke Southwood being beaten too easily for Ryan Yates’ goal at the weekend. Some would say it was a good strike by the midfielder - but it wasn’t exactly in the corner and this is why the academy graduate needs to come out for now.
At the back, I’ve gone with the same players I went with at Forest. I don’t want to play Yiadom at right-back and if Junior Hoilett could fill in there at the expense of Tom Ince, that could be decent. But Ince played as a wing-back for Stoke earlier in the season and will be more accustomed to that position.
The trio of McIntyre, Scott Dann and Michael Morrison may be slow and that’s a bit of a worry - but two older centre-backs in Curtis Davies and Phil Jagielka did a decent job as a pairing at Derby before the latter’s departure in January.
I do feel a bit sorry for Danny Drinkwater - but he has to come out with Andy Rinomhota and Josh Laurent pairing up with each other once again. Their presence could help to provide a shield in front of the defence - but only if they are at the top of their game.
With Swift probably not available, Ovie Ejaria comes in with Brandon Barker who made enough of an impact to start this evening. The latter could help to provide a real injection of energy, though it remains to be seen how he would cope in a more central role with no touchline to work with.
And if he’s fully fit, Lucas Joao replaces Yakou Meite up top, looking to get on the scoresheet at the Vitality once again after scoring a penalty on the south coast last year.
His presence probably won’t be enough to get a result in this one though.
Score Prediction: AFC Bournemouth 3-0 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
Tuesday 15th February (7:45pm KO unless stated):
Barnsley vs Bristol City
Birmingham City vs Middlesbrough
Blackburn Rovers vs Derby County
West Bromwich Albion vs Fulham (8pm KO)
Wednesday 16th February (7:45pm KO unless stated):
Blackpool vs Sheffield United
Cardiff City vs Stoke City
Coventry City vs Hull City
Luton Town vs Preston North End
Millwall vs Huddersfield Town
Nottingham Forest vs Queens Park Rangers
Peterborough United vs Swansea City