No Easy Start for Town at Reading
Friday, 2nd Aug 2013 13:33
Mick McCarthy admits that facing Reading at the Madejski Stadium is a tough way to start his first full season as Town boss. The Blues go into the opening game of the campaign with injury concerns regarding Aaron Cresswell, Luke Hyam and Anthony Wordsworth.
As widely quoted, had last season started when McCarthy took over on November 1st, the Blues would have been sixth. The Town boss says Saturday's game the relegated Royals will be no pushovers as he looks for his side to emulate that form during the campaign ahead.
“We’ll see. It’s a proper start for us to find out," he said. "It’s a tough game. I reckon Reading could put two Championship teams out comfortably with the squad that they’ve got, two good ones.
“And they’ve got a good manager in Nigel Adkins because he’s proved that with Scunthorpe first and then Southampton.
“That’s a really tough start for us but whatever happens there is not going to have a bearing on the next 45 games because we might go there and win and who knows what happens after that?
“Can we challenge? I’d like to think so. That’s what we’re aiming for. Let’s start with that and if we aim at the top six, that would be a good place to be for us.”
The Blues were unbeaten throughout pre-season, although it was particular displays which pleased their manager: “I was delighted with pre-season, not about the games and the results, it’s still nice to win them, but if you lose them you come away saying they don’t matter, so if you win them it doesn’t matter either. But it’s still better to win them.
"I thought we played well in them, certain parts of games. At Colchester I thought we were excellent and in the first half at Notts County we should have been home and hosed but we had to make changes and we got injuries.
“Performances were good and you can see the team playing in the way I wanted them to play in that shape and that system and understanding it, so that was pleasing.
“And we didn’t get any injuries up until the last knockings, which is disappointing, but that’s what you have a squad for.”
Strikers Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick were probably the standout performers during pre-season, scoring five and four goals respectively.
“I think they’ve been excellent, the two of them," McCarthy said. "They’ve both come back looking very fit and very sharp and from 24th June when we came back they’ve been right bang at it.
“They’ve got some healthy competition with Big Frank and Paul Taylor, who is training fully now. He’s more than capable of being involved.
“Whether he could do 90 minutes there would be room for discussion there, he’s been out for 11 months, but he’s certainly at full tilt and playing no problem.”
McCarthy’s first choice XI is likely to be the side which started at Notts County. Scott Loach in goal, Elliott Hewitt at right-back, Tommy Smith and Luke Chambers - who will probably wear the armband - at the centre of the defence and Aaron Cresswell at left-back.
Cresswell is a doubt with a thigh problem and if he doesn’t make it Tyrone Mings will make his second senior start. The former Chippenham man was complaining of tonsillitis on Thursday but McCarthy was confident that the 20-year-old would be fine.
In central midfield, Luke Hyam is also a doubt with a groin problem but seems likely to start alongside Cole Skuse.
New loan signing from Manchester United Ryan Tunnicliffe would appear to be Hyam’s most likely replacement should he not make it with Anthony Wordsworth another doubt with the calf problem he suffered within minutes of coming on at half-time at Meadow Lane last week.
Jay Tabb will be on the left and Paul Anderson on the right, while McGoldrick will partner Murphy up front.
McCarthy has decisions to make amongst his subs but Taylor seems likely to be amongst the 18 having returned to full training and after scoring a stunning freekick at Notts County.
Reading manager Nigel Adkins is determined that his side bounces back into the top flight at the first attempt: “We don’t want to be mid-table, we want to be back in the Premier League.
“That’s what we want. That has to be the ambition, that has to be the drive. You want to be at the top. The pressures being at the top are far better than the pressure of being at the bottom.”
He says Royals supporters need to make more noise than the 2,700 travelling Blues: “I believe there will be approaching 20,000 people there, it’ll be about 23 degrees and a nice day for people to come out.
“If we, on the pitch, can give them something to cheer about then I’m sure they can make a noise and outsing the 3,000 Ipswich supporters.
“We need to win. People pay hard earned cash to watch a game of football – they want to be entertained, they want an atmosphere – that’s what our desire and drive is.
“The opposition won’t want that, they’ll want to make sure we don’t have the football. If it works for us great, if it doesn’t it won’t be through the lack of trying.”
Adkins will be without Reading striker Nick Blackman, who is banned for one game for an incident involving a steward, which took place while he was a Sheffield United player in September last year.
Striker Jason Roberts is out having undergone hip surgery, while winger Jimmy Kebe is a doubt with a groin problem. Hal Robson-Kanu is fit after having had stitches to his knee earlier in the summer.
Town have just about had the better of the Royals historically, winning 22 times (21 in the league), drawing nine (nine) and losing 18 (18).
Reading haven’t won on the opening day of the season since 2006 and lost their last three pre-season friendlies. Their only home goal since Jimmy Kebe scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Sunderland on February 2nd was an own goal by Aston Villa’s Nathan Baker during a 2-1 defeat at the Madejski Stadium in March.
The Berkshire club won their most recent four games against Town, the last two in their Championship-winning 2011/12 campaign.
In the December at the Madejski Stadium, Alex Pearce’s second-half goal condemned the Blues to a 1-0 defeat.
The loss was harsh on Town who were the better side in the first half of a tight game during which Jay Emmanuel-Thomas hit the bar from distance.
Just over a month earlier at Portman Road, Town snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the closing moments for a second successive week as Reading left Suffolk with a 3-2 win.
Daryl Murphy opened the scoring 11 minutes after the break, Kaspars Gorkss equalised for the Royals before Josh Carson’s deflected shot put the Blues back in front.
Town looked to have won it but Alex Pearce and Noel Hunt netted at the death to see the Blues to a third 3-2 defeat on the trot for the first time in their history.
Jay Tabb joined the Blues this summer having been released by the Royals at the end of last season after four and a half years at the Madejski Stadium, while Reading keeper Alex McCarthy spent time on loan at Portman Road during 2011/12, making 10 appearances.
Saturday’s referee is David Coote from Nottinghamshire, who last season showed 96 yellow cards and four red in 32 games.
Coote’s most recent Town match was the 3-0 home victory over Millwall last December in which he booked two Lions and, perhaps inevitably, Lee Martin.
TWTD's Prediction League starts on Saturday with full details of that and a number of fantasy leagues run by TWTD Message Boarders here.
Squad from: Loach, Gerken, Hewitt, Veseli, Cresswell, Mings, Smith, Chambers, Berra, Skuse, Hyam, Tunnicliffe, Wordsworth, Anderson, Edwards, Tabb, McGoldrick, Murphy, Nouble, Taylor.
Photo: Action Images
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