Reading fans have been willing the end of this Championship season to come around for weeks now, with poor performances and a lack of goals being a consistent cause of frustration. Saturday sees the Royals take on Brentford, a side performing to a much better standard and vying for a place in the play-offs. More importantly for Reading fans, it is the final game of the season at the Madejski.
Reading have failed to score at home in their last three Championship matches. In the long term, they have also failed to score in ten of their twenty-three games at the Madejski this season (43%). It makes for worse reading when you consider how many games the home side have been able to win this season. Out of the twenty-three games, the Royals have only managed to win eight (35%). When considering the poor performances at home, it is easy to see why attendances continue to fall right up to the end of the season.
On Wednesday evening Reading fell to another league defeat, this time against mid-table side Birmingham City. Despite dominating in terms of possession, and limiting Birmingham’s chances for the majority of the game, a late Clayton Donaldson goal stole all three points for the Blues. The highlight of the game was the culmination of the #FlagsForFeds Twitter campaign that was a nice touch by the fans.
Brentford, meanwhile, could only manage a 2-2 draw at home against Bolton despite being 2-1 ahead. Ex-Reading player Adam Le Fondre scored one of the goals to help Bolton to a point. The Bees will be disappointed with their recent run of games, especially when considering their late push for a place in the play-offs. Their last victory came at the beginning of the month when they defeated Fulham 4-1 away from home. Since then they have only managed three draws and a defeat. With two games left against Reading and Wigan, Brentford will be hoping to take all six points.
The last time the two sides met back in October Brentford came away with all three points, winning 3-1. Goals from Jota, Alex Pritchard and Jonathan Douglas led the Bees to victory, with a consolation goal being scored by Simon Cox.
“We still want to win games. I want to finish at home on Saturday with a win and I want to do well in the last two away games.”– Reading Manager Steve Clarke
With Reading manager Steve Clarke issuing a warning to the misfiring Royals, the pressure is on the side to fight for their places in next season’s squad. Clarke has said that he will honour the promotion fight by putting out a strong Reading side, so a number of the youngsters who featured against Birmingham will probably be replaced. One player that Clarke will definitely have to replace is Nathan Ake, who returned to Chelsea following his month long loan. Reading will be testing the fitness of Alex Pearce, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Hal Robson-Kanu and Danny Williams who were all absent from the last game.
One player that is causing some confusion in the Reading ranks is Simon Cox. The Reading striker has supposedly been absent through injury, but made his comeback in Reading’s defeat to Arsenal as a substitute. Against Birmingham on Wednesday, however, he was once again missing from the squad. Rumours circulated that he was spotted leaving the ground, but Clarke refused to comment. With the striker seemingly falling out of favour for whatever reason, it will be interesting to see if he lines up in the last few games for Reading.
“Steve has had to deal with the FA Cup and the backlog of fixtures, so again we’ll look at their squad, their team sheet at two o’clock and have a clearer idea of what they are doing. We’re well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the Reading squad.”– Brentford Manager Mark Warburton
Brentford will be lining up without on-loan Everton youngster Chris Long who has been ruled out with a knee injury. Lewis Macleod is not match fit following a hamstring injury, and Scott Hogan continues his recovery from cruciate ligament damage which requires further surgery. Top scorers Andre Gray (16), Pritchard (11) and Jota (10) are all set to lead the line for the Bees.
Reading will have their work cut out for them once again if they are to take anything from the game. The players will be hoping to give the home fans something to cheer about, as well as a personal confidence boost going into the last two games, following a disappointing season. Brentford, meanwhile, will be aiming to take all three points at the Madejski. With a place in the play-offs on the line, the Bees have the greater incentive to do exactly that.