Right then, a chance to move on and look forward in contemplating the visit of The Royals this coming weekend. Reading, of course, usurped our play-off position at the weekend, and went on to further their advantage by beating Preston midweek to leave the Reds three points behind sixth place, and with an inferior goal difference to boot. So both a daunting opponent, but also a great opportunity to try to breathe some life back into our alarmingly ailing season.
Reading are in excellent form, and we of course, are not. Eight matches have passed without a win, I’m going to tactically ignore events last weekend because they’ve been covered adequately (indeed, to excess!) elsewhere – however the fall-out of that game means that we have two more additions to our absent list, as Chris Cohen is suspended and Paul Anderson is likely to be out for ‘weeks rather than days’ after a not-excessively-forced knee to the ribs at Elland Road.
Whilst results have been a source of frustration for us, there were green shoots of hope offered in recent performances, however, if we are to prevail then we really need to sharpen up our finishing. Whilst we can task our midfield with creating opportunities more frequently for our front men, we need to be a lot more ruthless when these opportunities do arrive – something Leeds demonstrated very well at the weekend.
Reading are unbeaten in nine games, so come to us on the crest of a wave of momentum – they’re also pretty hot away from home, they’ve only lost five games away from the Madejski stadium all season – and they’ve scored 28 goals on the road. Not least thanks to the goalscoring prowess of Shane Long, a dangerous opponent anyway, before we factor in his propensity to win penalties.
I’d love to be optimistic – but with no Cohen in midfield, and at best a not fully fit Moussi or McKenna returning I fear that we risk being over-run in midfield, which will put too much pressure on our defence (the very problem we had against Leeds once Cohen had gone off). Reading have a lot of attacking threat, and my worry is it will prove too much for us to deal with.
On the flip-side, with a not-exactly-young back four if we can approach the game positively and press forward with pace there could well be opportunities. Any goalscoring chances that do come our way need to be converted with much more frequency than we’ve seen of late. Plus we do of course know to our own cost recently that all good runs have to come to an end, just as bad runs do.
Despite desperately clawing some optimism though, I fear we might be in for disappointment in this game. Certainly the home fans can play their part – if ever the boys needed plenty of backing from the stands then this is it, so I certainly hope as many of you will join me in plenty of vocal support as possible. A win here would give us a much needed confidence boost and adrenaline shot going into this always tricky run of fixtures.
A loss and it would be difficult to envisage much opportunity for us to reclaim a play-off spot, but of course, not impossible. As Billy says, seasons always have ups and downs, twists and turns – lets hope our season is about to resume a more upward trajectory.