News and Views

Focus Returns To League As Reading Face Bolton

20 November 2015
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading return to Championship League action this weekend as Bolton Wanderers visit the Madejski Stadium. With the gap in domestic football for Reading, Steve Clarke did his best to keep us entertained this week with his Fulham flirtations. Clarke emerged as a favourite for the job early in the week, was then not expected to join only for bookmakers to stop taking bets on Wednesday evening. Clarke was then expected to be revealed as the new manager on Thursday, only to perform a spectacular u-turn and turn the job down after negotiations fell through. Clarke claims Reading was the best options for him and said: "It's been a strange week but I know I've made the right decision". So Clarke is staying, for now at least, and his next task is to focus on getting the team back to winning ways against Bolton.

Bolton are second to bottom in the table with just a single win to their name all season. Away from home they've picked up a miserable two points from eight matches. If ever there was perfect opportunity for Clarke to try and earn back some respect then this is surely it. However, another side to the story is Bolton have conceeded just two goals in their last three games. Two of those games have been 0-0 draws (including a 0-0 draw at Preston). So despite Bolton's position, finding the back of the net comes with no guarantees. Nick Blackman is due a goal after his stunning run of form came to an end four games ago - he has failed to score since as Reading have struggled. Reading of course did climb all the way up to second before their recent collapse in form, and now find themselves four points out of the top six and a huge 10 outside the top two. A victory is needed to keep Reading in touch with the play-offs positions.

Clarke put together a strong squad over the summer, with plenty of depth, but has had injury issues in recent weeks that has seen changes in the starting eleven game to game. He has lost the services of Hal Robson Kanu and Stephen Quinn until probably the end of the year. McCleary and Hector are both doubtful for Saturday afer coming back from International duty with Jamaica with minor injuries. Vydra is also unlikely to play due to problems with his knee, which could give players who have had limited match time a chance to make an impression. The good news is Paul McShane appears set to return in the centre of defence for Reading and his straight swap for Hector should bring some stability missing in recent weeks.

Last season points were shared with Bolton. A 0-0 home draw was followed by a 1-1 final score on the road when Mackie scored a late equaliser to salvage a point. The season before Reading were huge 7-1 winners over Bolton at home on a day when every shot somehow found itself in the Bolton net. It's hard to imagine a repeat of that right now, but with recent activity both on and off the pitch this match is shaping up to be the most interesting of the season so far. Support and anger towards Clarke could be well split, but anything other than a Reading win will cause him severe discomfort and he may well wish he'd accepted Fulham's offer.

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