After Reading’s heroic FA Cup performance on Saturday, it is back to business for the Royals come Wednesday evening. With a FA Cup final place no longer up for grabs, and the target of mathematical safety achieved, the Royals are free to enjoy their football and will be hoping to carry their performance in the cup into their last few games of the season. Their opposition in the first of these is mid-table side Birmingham, who they face at the Madejski.
The result the last time the two sides met is one that Reading fans, as well as Nigel Adkins, will not like to remember. In what turned out to be Adkins final game in charge, the Royals were outplayed by their opposition, crashing to a 6-1 defeat at St. Andrew’s. A first-half Demarai Gray hat-trick helped the Blues well on their way to victory, with a Glenn Murray goal the only thing keeping Reading from total humiliation.
The last match for the Blues ended in defeat, as the game finished with a narrow 1-0 victory for Watford. It is one of a few poor results for the side, who have won four of their last ten matches, drawing three and losing three. A 2-1 home victory against Wolves earlier this month, however, will be a particular highlight for them. Away from home, Birmingham have failed to win in their last nine games in all competitions.
Reading will be the more disappointed of the two sides with their recent form in the Championship. Despite their outstanding FA Cup performance showing exactly what fans knew they were capable of, it is a level of performance that has often been missing in their league fixtures. The Royals have only won one of their last ten games, drawing four and losing five. Reading’s last victory at home to Brighton was also their only home win in their last seven Championship matches at the Madejski.
Reading boss Steve Clarke is expected to make some changes for Wednesday’s game following the extra-time defeat. Nathan Ake and Kwesi Appiah will probably return to the lineup after being cup-tied. The likes of Oliver Norwood, Jem Karacan and Simon Cox may also be in contention for a starting position after playing a limited role against Arsenal.
One player that fans will be keen to see is goalkeeper Adam Federici. Following his gutsy performance in the cup, and his unlucky extra-time error, fans are keen to show their support for the Australian. The “Player of the Season” candidate has kept his side out of the bottom three with his consistent performances and many want to show their appreciation. The #FlagsForFeds Twitter campaign has taken off, with fans expected to bring Australian flags in support of the Reading goalkeeper.
Birmingham may make some changes themselves, with a full squad available for manager Gary Rowett. Diego Fabbrini and Lloyd Dyer are both available after being ineligible to face parent club Watford. Nikola Zigic is also back after missing the last three games through injury. Top goalscorers Clayton Donaldson (15) and David Cotterill (9) are also expected to start.
With Blackburn winning their fixture 2-0 against Millwall on Tuesday evening, Reading are already safe for next season. They will be hoping that they can finish the season off well, however, especially with a summer of change expected for the Royals.