It’s crunch time for Reading now, with a crucial run of eight games shortly underway that will determine our Championship status. First up is a trip to midtable side Bristol City. To find out some more about them, we spoke to The Exiled Robin, who can be found on Twitter @TheExiledRobin.
How would you sum up your season so far?
At the start of the season I think most fans were expecting a finish around 13th-15th, hoped to see more entertainment and goals, and continue to see more of the promising academy players blooded and playing more games.
Tick. Tick. Tick
It’s a slightly strange one as, despite that, I believe there’s still a slight underlying feeling of ‘could do better’ and a tinge of disappointment that we’re not more firmly established in the top half.
How’s Nigel Pearson getting on in the dugout?
With Pearson it’s a similar position to the above. This is now very much his squad, and by getting rid of the likes of Daniel Bentley, Han-Noah Massengo and Chris Martin in January, even more so now.
He’s ticked a huge box in bringing through and regularly playing a number of academy players, notably Alex Scott, Tommy Conway and Sam Bell, whilst older graduates such as Zak Vyner, Max O’Leary and Cam Pring have established themselves, meaning we often have 9-10 in the squad.
We’ve had two good unbeaten runs but are now in our second fallow period, albeit with some excuses regarding senior player injuries.
This really is his summer - the squad will be entirely his come August and he should have a reasonable amount of money from the sale of Antoine Semenyo and the likely big-money move for Alex Scott. He’s now got to demonstrate what he can do with everyone on the same bus and I think pressure will come on quite quickly if we don’t progress again.
What are the main strengths of this Bristol City team?
The main strengths have been our ability to counter-attack at pace and score goals, although these have dried up in recent weeks.
With everyone fit, a platform in midfield offers the chance for Scott, Conway, Bell, Nahki Wells and others to really spring forward and create chances.
In Scott and January signing Anis Mehmeti we’ve got two players who can thrill and take the game to defenders; we’ve just got to work out how to make that more efficient and effective.
Despite a short spell of keeping things tighter we’re not especially robust at the back, especially now with our three most commanding centre backs and our two main midfield protectors all out injured!
We’re quite small and slight in places and typically concede at least one goal per game. Set-pieces are also weak defensively and teams can out-muscle us if they so wish.
How do you see the rest of the season playing out for you?
We’re not going down and we’re not making the top six, so the concern is that the season will just kind of drift along, dwindling away. Pearson has a job to do to motivate the players and get us as high as possible.
We still have to play the top three again, plus Watford, so really need to pick up points from those we play who are in the bottom half.
How will the game go on Saturday and what will the score be?
If we didn’t have the injured we have, I’d be fairly confident of a reasonably confident win. But with six players from our spine injured it’s become a bit of a struggle the last few weeks.
Hopefully a couple return this week and we can scrape a narrow victory. I’d go 2–1.