The Build Up: Reading vs Middlesbrough
Boro make the long trip to London this weekend, for the challenge of Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
Boro come into the game on the back of a much-improved performance, and a victory at the expense of Huddersfield Town.
A wonderful Duncan Watmore solo effort and an Ashley Fletcher penalty gave the Reds all three points despite the Terriers taking the lead through a tremendous free kick from Isaac Mbenza, and a late sending off for ever-present defender Paddy McNair.
Warnock will be all too pleased that McNair’s suspension had been overturned following a successful appeal for a wrongful dismissal. The Northern Irishman was adjudged to have challenged recklessly, causing danger to his opponent, much to the despair of the Boro faithful.
Neil Warnock will also be pleased with the grit that Ashley Fletcher displayed on Tuesday night, and getting on the scoresheet is something which will have pleased everyone at the club - no one more so than the Boro boss. Fletcher should expect to be in from the start once again.
Warnock has confirmed that defender Dael Fry should be in contention for Saturday’s game following his calf injury which has prevented him from featuring. The youth-academy graduate has been missed in the defence with Boro failing to keep a clean sheet without his presence. However, Yannick Bolaise and Marcus Tavernier’s absence remains and will miss the fixture.
After a much-needed improvement to the performance and result, it is difficult to imagine manager Neil Warnock will make many changes to the side that ran out 2-1 winners against Huddersfield. I would expect Dael Fry to be involved but that could potentially be the only change to the side.
The surprise package of the season is Boro’s opponents for the weekend, Reading. The Berkshire side were tipped to be battling against relegation but instead find themselves at the other end of the table, fighting towards a return to England’s top-flight.
Reading have the worst defence of any team in the top nine, and that is something Neil Warnock will be very aware of. However, with Boro struggling to capitalise on defensive frailties on several occasions this season, time will tell if the Teessiders can capitalise.
It’s at the other end of the pitch that Reading have proven too strong for sides, with only Brentford boasting more goals than the Royals.
Manager Veljko Paunovic was an unknown quantity heading into the season but has managed to get an attack of Michael Olise, Lucas Joao and Ovie Ejaria firing on all cylinders. However, Reading have struggled for a consistent run of form as of late, having won just two of their last six outings.
Earlier in the season, the two sides played out a 0-0 game as Reading were denied of a victory for the first time this season. Jonny Howson had a goal ruled out for offside in the only real talking point of a tightly contested fixture.
Boro and Reading haven’t met on all too many occasions through time; just 36 prior meetings have taken place between the two clubs with Boro picking up more wins over Saturday’s hosts.
Boro wins: 16
Reading wins: 9