Looking for our first Madejski league win
We’re back on the road tomorrow and this time it is Reading at the Madejski Stadium. We’ve had a couple of wonderful days there in the past but generally it has not been the best of grounds for us since our first visit in 1998 when we came home with a point in a 1-1 draw.
The best of the lot was the play-off semi-final win in 2009 and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen those goals from Martin Paterson and Steven Thompson that took us to Wembley and eventually our first season in the Premier League.
And two seasons ago it was a fantastic and relaxed day as we moved upwards again. This time promotion had already been clinched and it was the final game of the season. That one ended 2-2 and a draw remains the best league result we’ve ever had there and we’ve lost two FA Cup ties too.
We go there in good form with the only defeat since Boxing Day coming in the FA Cup tie at Arsenal two weeks ago. That Boxing Day defeat was at Hull and we exorcised those demons last Saturday when Sam Vokes scored the only goal to beat the league leaders and take us within a point of them.
Reading, of course, were the first side to beat us on the Turf this season and whilst it isn’t a revenge mission, it would be good to get one over on them and get the points we need to stay up there.
Vokes, who is certainly in goalscoring form right now, said: “It’s another massive game as it’s always a tough place to go to Reading. We saw them here earlier this season and dropped points that day and we’ll look to get a bit of revenge I suppose going down there.”
He’s enjoying playing alongside Andre Gray up front with the only clash between them coming with the choice of music in the dressing room, something that Sam is in charge of. “The partnership I’ve got with Andre and the team clicking as we are at the minute and chipping in goals, it all helps,” he added.
“I love playing with him and we’re both getting on the scoresheet which is nice. He has been chirping up a bit about the music in the dressing room but it’s a winning formula at the minute so I’d like to keep that.”
I don’t know what tunes Sam prefers but he can stick with them right now for me. I wrote recently that I thought January had been his best month since returning a year earlier from his cruciate ligament injury and four goals in six games must have boosted his confidence.
He’s been very much part of the revival and this after surely coming close to losing his place after some disappointing performances in January.
He’ll partner Gray again tomorrow which will mean Rouwen Hennings will still be champing at the bit to get a place and the same will have to be said for our latest signing James Tarkowski. The central defender has arrived from Brentford and had a watching brief last week. I’m not sure what he must have thought about his chances of getting in as he saw both Michael Keane and Ben Mee have outstanding games in defence.
One player definitely ruled out again is Dean Marney. He’s still struggling with his calf injury although manager Sean Dyche has said he is on the grass.
I suppose it would be a surprise if there were any changes to the starting eleven although Tarkowski could come into the reckoning for the bench.
We should line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, Michael Duff, James Tarkowski, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly, Rouwen Hennings.
Reading have had a change of management since we last met. Steve Clarke spoke to Fulham about their vacancy but opted to stay at Reading. He was immediately told that results had to improve and, when they didn’t, he found himself out of work.
They’ve replaced him with the familiar figure of Brian McDermott who, in his last spell in charge, took them to the Premier League. Having lost his job he moved to Leeds where he became Massimo Cellino’s first victim.
McDermott returned to the Madejski a week before Christmas since when they’ve dropped a couple of places in the table to 15th. It’s away from home they’ve been struggling; at home they’ve been beaten just once under the new manager in five games, that being a 2-1 defeat against Brentford in the last game of 2015.
They are now under Thai ownership. John Madejski has continued on the board but it is now a board that includes names such as Sasima Srivikorn, Narin Niruttinanon, Sumrith Thanakarnjansuth, Taweesuk Srisumrid and Theekharoj Piamphongsarn.
They strengthened their squad in the last window with three signings. In came Deniss Rakels from Cracovia who I admit to knowing nothing about, along with young Manchester City midfielder George Evans and Bournemouth’s former Charlton striker Yann Kermogant.
Rakels has been used as a substitute but could start tomorrow should Matej Vydra fail a fitness test on a hamstring injury. Danny Williams is also doubtful with a similar injury and it is a hamstring problem that rules our Aaron Tshibola.
Other than that they are likely to be at full strength with a team that will include Burnley born Oliver Norwood.
Last week they drew 0-0 at home against Wolves. The team was: Ali Al Habsi, Chris Gunter, Jordan Obita, Paul McShane, Jake Cooper, Oliver Norwood, Danny Williams, Garath McCleary, Hal Robson-Kanu, Yann Kermogant, Matej Vydra. Subs: Jonathan Bond, Anton Ferdinand, Michael Hector, Stephen Quinn, Lucas Piazon, Ola John, Deniss Rakels.
LAST TIME WE WERE THERE
The 2013/14 season had ended in triumph. A 2-0 home win against Wigan clinched promotion and then the 1-0 victory over Ipswich saw the presentation of the trophy and medals. There was just one game to play and that was at Reading against a side pushing for a place in the play-offs.
Sean Dyche said there would be no let up, that we would go hard and that’s exactly what we did having received a warm welcome from the home club who were wholesome in their praise of our achievements.
They needed to match Brighton, who were playing Nottingham Forest, but after a frantic opening couple of minutes we settled the better. But it was Reading who took the lead and from a Burnley corner when Danny Ings and Michael Kightly tried to work a clever routine. They broke quickly and when Jobi McAnuff crossed from the right all Kieran Trippier could do was turn the ball into his own goal.
We didn’t let the setback bother us and within four minutes we were level. Kightly took a quick free kick for Dean Marney. His ball into the box took a couple of deflections before reaching Scott Arfield who hit home from around the penalty spot.
Ings had been a frustrated figure after coming back from injury. Unable to get a goal, he looked far from happy, but he finally got one to give us the lead. He did ever so well too, turning with the ball in the D and creating space to finish with a shot into the bottom corner.
It proved to be our last goal of the season but we still had one to concede that gave Reading a point and hope. We led 2-1 at half time but Garath McCleary scored a superb second from the home side.
They really pushed for a winner but it wasn’t to be. News came through that they’d made it and home fans were dancing on the pitch, but it was misinformation, Brighton had beaten Forest and Reading had missed out.
I will always remember just standing there in the stadium, still there when Reading did their walk round at the end, and credit to their players and to John Madejski who applauded the many Burnley fans still in there. We didn’t want to leave; we didn’t want this brilliant season to end, the best season in over 40 years.
The teams were;
Reading: Alex McCarthy, Chris Gunter, Alex Pearce, Sean Morrison, Jordan Obita, Garath McCleary, Mikele Leigertwood, Hope Akpan (Jake Taylor 55), Jobi McAnuff, Adam Le Fondre (Hal Robson-Kanu 57), Pavel Pogrebnyak. Subs not used: Adam Federici, Sean Cummings, Kaspars Gorkss, Michael Hector, Nick Blackman.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, Scott Arfield (Junior Stanislas 72), Dean Marney, David Jones, Michael Kightly (Ross Wallace 63), Danny Ings, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Alex Cisak, Chris Baird, Kevin Long, David Edgar, Keith Treacy.Follow UpTheClarets:
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