For the final time this season, Reading hit the road as they travel to play-off candidates Luton Town, free of any pressure with survival already guaranteed.
The hosts, on the other hand, have plenty to play for as they look to fend off the likes of Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Millwall to secure a top-six spot, something that would be a remarkable achievement considering how little the Hatters have spent in recent years with off-field stability paying dividends for them.
With the possibility of falling out of the play-off zone though, they could be slightly nervous coming into this tie as the away side look to give their supporters something to shout about, though their performance last weekend simply wasn’t up to scratch.
Can they respond this weekend though with quite a few players expected to leave at the end of this term? The fans certainly deserve a decent performance.
Looking ahead, here’s everything you need to know ahead of this clash.
What? Championship Matchday 46
Who? Luton Town
Where? Kenilworth Road
When? Saturday 7th May 2022
Opposition Manager? Nathan Jones
Psychologically, this is a strange scenario for the Hatters because many people wouldn’t have expected them to be in the top six at this point and because of this, they are arguably under less pressure than sides like Sheffield United and Middlesbrough. The Blades will obviously be under the microscope because they were plying their trade in the Premier League last season - and there will be big expectations for Boro because of Chris Wilder’s reputation and the fact they invested heavily in their squad last summer.
But on the other hand, Jones’ men have been in the play-off zone for a considerable amount of time now and this is why they may be feeling the heat coming into this tie. As well as this, they suffered a demoralising 7-0 defeat against league leaders Fulham earlier this week so it remains to be seen what effect that humiliation in the English capital has had with their top-six rivals keeping close tabs on the Hatters.
Some of those who will start today probably won’t be at the club next season, so it will be interesting to see how they approach the game. Out of the 11 that started last weekend, Terell Thomas, Michael Morrison and loanee Tom Dele-Bashiru should probably be the first ones out the door if we can get better alternatives.
The jury is still out on Orjan Nyland, though we could probably do a lot worse if he can minimise errors between the sticks. We won’t be able to keep Baba Rahman and Danny Drinkwater, giving Junior Hoilett one more year may not be the worst idea, and in terms of Ovie Ejaria, I’ve been extremely disappointed with his performances this season. However, it’s unclear whether we will be able to bring in a better alternative in our quest to abide by the EFL business plan.
Hopefully some preparation has gone into the summer window already because it’s much-needed. If we aren’t at that stage yet, we’re in a bit of trouble.
One to Watch: Matt Ingram
Coming in on an emergency loan last weekend, Hull City man Ingram endured a horrendous debut as he fell to a 7-0 loss.
In fairness to him, he wasn’t at fault for any of the goals but he won’t exactly be full of confidence coming into this tie so it will be fascinating to see how he gets on. This is his first home game at Kenilworth Road too and in such an important clash, he could be crucial with the club suffering a major injury crisis in the goalkeeping department recently.
Not only is Jed Steer out, but also James Shea and they sold Simon Sluga during the winter window so Harry Isted was forced to step up to the plate, actually doing a reasonably decent job before Ingram’s arrival.
The latter is a much-needed addition though - and if he can pull off a few vital saves this afternoon - this will give him some momentum going into a potential play-off campaign.
The Last Meeting
Reading 0-2 Luton Town
- The hosts have kept clean sheets in five of their last six league victories. A strong defence has been key to picking up maximum points.
- The Hatters have the worst goal difference of all sides in the top six (+7).
- Going into today, the Royals have the second-worst defensive record in the division, conceding just 86 goals in 45 league matches. They have conceded just one goal less than Peterborough United.
- They have also won 15 points from a possible 39 under Paul Ince. Not the best record but one that has kept us afloat in the division.
My Reading lineup: Andresson, Rahman, McIntyre, Morrison, Abrefa, Ashcroft, Tetek, Laurent, Ejaria, Camara, Joao
Although many people would give Luke Southwood a chance between the sticks, Jokull Andresson hasn’t been given a chance to shine yet and this is why he gets his chance to stake his claim for a first-team spot next season.
In Andy Yiadom’s absence, Rahman comes back into the side with Morrison, Tom McIntyre and Kelvin Abrefa making up the back three. This back three should allow Tyrell Ashcroft to get forward, with the 17-year-old not exactly disgracing himself earlier in the season.
With McIntyre returning to the backline, Dejan Tetek starts alongside Josh Laurent in midfield with Mamadi Camara also starting if he’s fit and is likely to be staying at the Select Car Leasing Stadium beyond the summer. Ejaria is one man who needs to show his worth today.
And up top, Lucas Joao gets the nod once more. If he can perform well this afternoon, it wouldn’t actually be a surprise to see the Royals come out on top.
Score Prediction: Luton Town 0-2 Reading
Other Championship Fixtures
All games get underway at 12:30pm this afternoon:
Birmingham City vs Blackburn Rovers
AFC Bournemouth vs Millwall
Derby County vs Cardiff City
Huddersfield Town vs Bristol City
Hull City vs Nottingham Forest
Peterborough United vs Blackpool
Preston North End vs Middlesbrough
Sheffield United vs Fulham
Stoke City vs Coventry City
Swansea City vs Queens Park Rangers
West Bromwich Albion vs Barnsley