News and Views

Mackie Goal Rescues Late Point At Bolton

03 March 2015
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading will go into Saturday's big FA Cup quarter final match at Bradford City on the back of a very late draw at Bolton Wanderers this evening. Reading trailed 0-1 into stoppage time at the end of the match but rescued a very late point when Jamie Mackie made it 1-1 with moments left to play. Mackie's goal seemed to come from nowhere with Reading struggling to create any clear cut opportunities as he fired home from outside the area into the bottom corner of the net. Moments before the goal Bolton might have wrapped up the three points, after looking much the better side in the second half, but Federici's save was crucial.

Reading made two changes from the side that was unsuccessful against Nottingham Forest on Saturday at the Madejski Stradium. Mackie, who was unable to face his own club at the weekend, was back in action up front alongside Pavel Pogrebnyak. Simon Cox found himself on the bench and restricted to playing just the last twenty minutes.

Danny Williams was moved to the bench with Oliver Norwood taking his place in midfield in the starting eleven. The changes looked like they would make little difference until Mackie earned Reading a point that justified his place in the starting eleven. Mackie had also had the most of Reading's limited chances in the first half, with the only other effort of note seeing Alex Pearce head over the Bolton crossbar. Bolton took the lead on the hour when former Reading player Adam Le Fondre turned provider to set up first half substitute Gudjohnsen to score. Mackie's late goal was only Reading's second league goal in six matches.

Reading had looked set to follow up two 0-3 defeats with a 0-1 defeat at Bolton but instead pulled further away from the drop zone, thanks to a Millwall defeat, as they increased the gap to ten points. The Royals had been bright enough in the first half, going in 0-0 at the break. Reading might have had extra hope after the home side were forced to use all three of their substitutes during the first half due to injuries. However, Reading, once again, were poor in the second half.

Meanwhile Bradford City kept a cleansheet at home as they ran out 1-0 winners against Crawley. That result made Reading's late point perhaps even more important as we can head into that game with a bit more hope against a Bradford City side who will be clear favourites to make it to the semi-finals.

Bolton Visit Needs To End In Reading Victory

03 March 2015
By Alex Bower

It is safe to say that recent Reading form is not the most impressive. With twelve matches left to play in the Championship, things are looking tight and Reading need to start putting some results together. Two 3-0 defeats on the bounce, and several defeats to lower placed teams including Leeds, Wigan and Huddersfield have seen the Royals drop to 18th in the league.

"Bolton is about going out and getting some points on the board. We're still not safe from relegation and you keep looking over your shoulder."
-- Steve Clarke

Tonight, Reading face Bolton at the Macron Stadium. Bolton are only one place above Reading in 17th, being level on points and having a slightly better goal difference. Despite a good run of form at home, Bolton have won only three of their last ten matches in the league. During these matches, however, they have still managed to find the net sixteen times. In comparison, Reading have also won only three of their last ten games in the Championship but have only managed to score six goals. Bolton's problem is that, while they can clearly score goals, they also struggle to keep them out at the other end.

"I don't know if Reading prioritise the cup but once you get to the quarter-final stage you must start thinking about the semi-finals and the final."
-- Neil Lennon

The timing of tonight's match, only a few days before Reading take on Bradford in the FA Cup, is one reason why Reading need to win against Bolton and get things back on track. Many will already be thinking that Reading minds will already be focussed on Saturday's match, including Bolton manager Neil Lennon. Going into the cup game losing three in a row, however, will do nothing to help the Reading players' confidence. Even though Bradford are a lower league team, with ex-Royal Phil Parkinson at the helm at home, they must fancy their chances. Going into the game on the back of an away win at Bolton, will be exactly the kind of preparation the Royals will benefit from.

A certain member of the opposition, who Reading fans will be well aware of, will definitely make life difficult for the Royals. Adam Le Fondre, who for financial reasons was part of the cull at the end of last season following three seasons at Reading, originally signed for Cardiff. In January Le Fondre was then loaned out by Cardiff to Bolton for the remainder of the season. Since joining Bolton, Le Fondre has scored three goals in seven games, most recently in their games against Nottingham Forest and Watford in February. Scoring against some tough opposition so far this season, and having scored fifteen goals in his last season with the Royals, Reading fans are fully aware of the kind of threat Le Fondre will pose for Bolton. Along with 19-year-old Zach Clough, who has scored six goals in nine games, Bolton have a strike force that is fully capable of easing to victory.

The statistics are not on Reading's side going into the game. At Bolton, Reading have won only one of the last twelve meetings in all competitions and that was back in 2007. This season, Bolton have also only lost one of their last eleven matches at home. Reading have also only won one of the last five meetings between the clubs, their last victory since 2007 being the memorable 7-1 victory at the Madejski in 2014. It is worth mentioning, however, that in that victory Le Fondre scored a first half hat-trick to help the Royals to victory.

With Reading seemingly performing better away from home, hopefully this can be the match to turn things around and get back on track. Losing another game to opposition in a similar league position will not help Reading confidence in the slightest. The Royals will definitely have their work cut out for them tonight and it will soon be seen if their minds are already focussed on Saturday's cup match.

See Also:

Reading and Bolton - Head to head record (since August 1994)
Games Between Reading and Bolton 12
Reading Wins 5
Bolton Wins 5
Draws 2
Reading Goals 21
Bolton Goals 18
Average Goals Per Game 3.25

Forest Defeat Highlighted Lack Of Quality

02 March 2015
By Alex Bower

Another home match, another day of disappointment. The latest match at the Madejski saw Reading slump to 18th in the table following their second consecutive 3-0 loss, this time to the currently in-form Nottingham Forest. The result means that Reading have now lost three home matches on the trot. One particularly damning statistic is that Reading have now failed to score in seven of the last nine home games. In those same seven games, Reading have conceded eight goals.

With pressure increasing on the squad even before the kick-off against Forest, the signs coming into the game were not promising. Simon Cox in particular was seemingly coming under some criticism for his lack of goals of late and was quoted as saying that he and Pavel Pogrebnyak have struggled to build up a partnership since the departure of Glenn Murray. With Cox and Pogrebnyak being the best chance Reading have up front to get a goal, it was not something that Reading fans wanted to hear.

"We need some people to step up to the mark and start scoring goals."
-- Steve Clarke

The starting lineup was, however, a promising one. Gunter returned from injury, to give a man of the match performance for the Royals, and other members of the squad who were rested against Huddersfield mid-week were brought back in. Clarke did his bit by putting out a squad that on paper would be strong enough to compete with Forest. Reading did that and more for the first half, with two chances for Cox not being dispatched and an effort from Garath McCleary being cleared off the line. Had one of these chances found the back of the net, perhaps the end result would have gone Reading's way.

Alas, they did not and instead Reading were on the wrong side of two beautifully struck goals. Ben Osborn and Gary Gardner were behind the two long-range efforts which highlighted a quality that Reading seem to currently lack. Whether it is down to the current level of confidence around camp or shooting ability, apart from Chalobah on the odd occasion, Reading do not seem to have that player who is willing to run at a defence and at least test the keeper from distance. Reading fans know what players like McCleary are capable of, but it is simply something that has not come to fruition in recent games. Far too often Reading players seem to get the ball into a half decent position, only to slow the play down, pass the ball back into the defence and boot it down the pitch if pressured. If Reading should learn one thing from the Forest players it is to be braver in front of goal. Overall, it could be said that the Forest team didn't win because they were better as such. Instead they have members of their squad who were simply happy and confident enough to take it on themselves and have a go.

With a much improved atmosphere (despite the stewarding debacle) and a promising starting lineup, the list of options to blame for Reading's poor form is getting ever shorter. Having now lost four of the last five matches, Steve Clarke will have to find an answer to the long running problem of why Reading can't seem to score and fast.

While Reading seem to be struggling to find the net, one young loanee does not seem to be having such issues. Many fans are currently calling for Dominic Samuel to be recalled from his loan spell with Coventry City, where he has currently scored four goals in six appearances. While recalling him so early on is probably not the best idea for his progression, the current form of the Reading forwards makes it an option well worth considering. What is clear is that with the quarter-final match away to Bradford coming up in just a matter of days, the Reading performance in front of goal is an almighty concern.

Another Home Defeat To Nil

28 February 2015
By Hob Nob Anyone?

It felt as if it was business as usual at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon as Steve Clarke reverted to his favourite starting eleven - but again saw them lose at home without scoring. Reading's home form is now atrocious after they have failed to score in three consecutive home defeats. It was Reading's second straight 0-3 reverse and saw the hard work of some recent away wins undone as the Royals slipped back to 18th in the table.

After the poor showing at Huddersfield in mid-week Clarke thought it best to shuffle the team around once more and recall his preferred starting eleven. That saw Cox and Pogrebnyak back up front with McCleary and Robson-Kanu back wide. Chalobah and Williams were in midfield and Chris Gunter returned at right back, after recovering from injury, to force Kelly onto the subs bench. Jake Taylor and Hope Akpan who both started on Tuesday night weren't even on the bench, and Yakubu was back to his role of coming on with twenty minutes left to play.

Visitors Nottingham Forest were probably worthy winners in the end but there was plenty of familiarity in the way the game went. Reading had the better of the first half and looked well placed for the second half, but then went a goal down not long after the break after a goal from nothing caught Federici off guard. They never really recovered from that goal and Forest were able to make the most of another defensive mistake and another error in placement from Federici to wrap up a win that, in the end, was straight forward. Forest's first and third strikes were spectacular long range screamers that flew into the roof of the net but Federici will surely feel disappointed not to have done better with such long range shots.

The first half had been much brighter. The atmosphere was much improved - helped in the North East corner by some bizarre stewarding targeting two fans for simply occasionally standing up, singing, and trying to enjoy themselves. The incident provoked a reaction from the fans as the stewards backed down and the resulting atmosphere was unusually good for this part of the ground. Reading had a few chances down the other end and won a couple of corners. From one corner Pogrebnyak headed just over. Simon Cox had chances after breaking into the area but his shots failed to find the target. Gareth McCleary was having a good game with some fast forward runs littered with step overs that looked like they might create some openings.

All that promise quickly faded in the second half. Federici made an excellent save before the mistakes returned for Reading. Reading still had the better of the possession but went from being in control to chasing a game they looked unlikely to get back into. Pogrebnyak found the side netting and had one decent effort saved, but Reading's shots were severely restricted.

Forest were excellent in defence and Reading found a packed area with no way through. Several attacks broke down as they were forced to put the ball out wide again with no options in the middle. Forest made it look easy down the other end and after their first it really felt as if the result was never in doubt. It does look like yet more changes are required to give Reading a chance of picking up what are quickly becoming vital league points. Bolton are the next trip for Reading on Tuesday night and it's very difficult to imagine us picking up points before what could be further embarrassment at Bradford next weekend.