Promoted Clarets travel to relegation threatened Reading
Promoted Burnley are back on the road tomorrow with a trip to Reading who have now dropped into the relegation positions having had six points deducted ten days ago for failing to comply with the budget restrictions that had been imposed on them following a previous breach of the league’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules.
Since they last played, a 2-1 defeat at Preston, they have sacked manager Paul Ince and will now play their remaining games with under-21 coach Noel Hunt, their former striker, taking interim charge.
Reading were top of the league at the end of August having won four of their opening six games and into October they were right up there with seven wins from eleven games. They’ve won just five times since and that’s seen them drop down the table although they would be sat in a reasonably comfortable 18th.
This will be no easy task. Besides us, only Blackburn, Sheffield United and Middlesbrough have won more home games this season and a league table based on home points only would see them sat one point outside the top six. Away from home it’s a different story; they would be bottom of the league. They have been beaten five times at the Select Car Leasing Stadium (Madejski was much easier). They lost 3-0 against Sunderland in September, 2-0 against West Brom in the following month and 2-1 against Preston in November. More recently they were beaten 1-0 by both Sheffield United and Millwall, those games four days apart.
The former manager’s son Tom Ince is their leading goalscorer this season in the Championship although he won’t play tomorrow. He’s netted nine goals with Andy Carroll just one behind him.
Their recent form has not been good. They beat Blackpool at home in February on the day we were beating Huddersfield. They’ve played eight games since that win and have picked up just thee points from successive draws against Hull, Bristol City and Birmingham.
We won’t know exactly what to expect tomorrow with them under new management although we can probably assume that Hunt won’t be whinging to the level Ince constantly did.
“I’ve told them they have to go out there and enjoy it. Relish it. We’ve been the hunted for the last six or seven weeks. Now I want them to go out there, play forward, get on the ball, not be afraid to make mistakes, but be brave.”
Reading are expected to without all of Ovie Ejaria, Baba Rahman, Shane Long, Ince, Tom McIntyre, Dean Bouzanis and Junior Hoilett who all have injuries while there has been no news on Yakou Meite who was forced to miss their game at Preston. Former Claret Jeff Hendrick (pictured above), currently on a season long loan from Newcastle is expected to play.
The Reading team at Preston was: Joe Lumley, Tom Holmes, Scott Dann, Naby Sarr, Andy Yiadom, Jeff Hendrick, Mamadou Loum, Cesare Casadei, Nesta Guinness-Walker, Lucas João, Andy Carroll. Subs: Coniah Boyce-Clarke, Femi Azeez, Tyrese Fornah, Amadou Mbengue, Kelvin Abrefa, Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan, Michael Craig.
Two wins over Easter have left us in need of just five points to win the league. That could be reduced to just two or three should Sheffield United not win their home game tomorrow against Cardiff which kicks off early.
It was a brilliant Easter, beating the two teams who were in the positions closest to us when the Good Friday games kicked off. The win at Middlesbrough and then the home win against Sheffield United have now left us fourteen points clear at the top with six games to play.
We’d all like to win the remaining games and beat Reading’s points record of 106 but it’s been one step at a time and the objective tomorrow is to get closer to winning the league so another three points and a double over Reading would is what we are looking for.
It would be a first too should we complete that double. Only once have we won a league game at Reading and that came on 11th April 1981 when two Steve Taylor goals and one from Micky Phelan gave us a 3-1 win at Elm Park.
We have, of course, won once at their current ground and what a vital win it was. That was in the play-offs and is not considered a league game.
It was 2-1 when we played them at home. Ince gave Reading the lead but Manuel Benson equalised before he set up a stoppage time winner for Anass Zaroury.
“When I first stepped back against Sunderland, I didn’t feel like I’d been away. I was back where I enjoy my time the most, at the Turf. It was tough but I’m buzzing to be back.”
Now he’s looking for more games and more points. “We’re buzzing to be up and promoted but as the manager said, we’ve not got any silverware to show for that yet, so we’re pushing for the title. Records can be broken, we all know that, so we’ve got to take each game as it comes but we’ll be pushing for that as well.”
Zaroury missed Monday’s game but manager Vincent Kompany confirmed that he’s fit and it looks as if only Jay Rodriguez is likely to miss this one through injury although he’s getting closer to a return. Kompany has said that he will utilise his squad for the remaining games so there could be some game time for players who haven’t featured too much recently.
A reminder that our team against Sheffield United was: Arijanet Muric, Connor Roberts, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jordan Beyer, Ian Maatsen, Josh Cullen, Jack Cork, Nathan Tella, Josh Brownhill, Lyle Foster, Ashley Barnes. Subs: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Charlie Taylor, Samuel Bastien, Vitinho, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson, Manuel Benson, Michael Obafemi.
LAST TIME WE WERE THERE
It’s over seven years since we last played at Reading. We were seven games unbeaten in the Championship and sat third in the table behind Middlesbrough and Hull. Reading were fifteenth but comfortably clear of the relegation places.
It ended 0-0 on a day when we were the better side in a game that we should have won. Reading were content to spoil and turn it into a scruffy game on a pitch that was in a terrible state.
Andre missed a glorious chance to give us an early lead and Reading hit the post through Yann Kermogant but other than that, there was little in the way of chances during the first half.
We did step things up in the second half. Gray couldn’t turn in a Matt Lowton cross, Ali Al-Habsi tipped a David Jones free kick onto the bar and then referee James Adcock awarded us a penalty that Reading hotly disputed. Al-Habsi was penalised for bringing down Gray but said he was nowhere near him, and that looked to be the case.
It didn’t excuse Kermogant whose abuse of the referee was totally unacceptable and it didn’t excuse Hal Robson-Kanu either who thought it was fine to do a one man digging operation on the penalty spot which Gray tried to flatten down. It didn’t help him, his penalty was saved.
That proved to be our last real chance and we had to settle for a point from this drab goalless draw.
The teams were;
Reading: Ali Al-Habsi, Chris Gunter, Jordan Obita, Paul McShane, Jake Cooper, Michael Hector, Oliver Norwood (Deniss Rakels 81), Stephen Quinn, Lucas Piazon (Garath McCleary 63), Hal Robson-Kanu, Yann Kermogant. Subs not used: Jonathan Bond, Anton Ferdinand, George Evans, Josh Barrett, Ola John.
Burnley: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Joey Barton, David Jones, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes, Andre Gray (Rouwen Hennings 85). Subs not used: Paul Robinson, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Fredrik Ulvestad, Matt Taylor, Michael Kightly.Follow UpTheClarets:
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