We are a week on from last weeks disappointment at the City Ground and there certainly appears to have been a positive change of mood amongst supporters following the victory in the week against Birmingham City. Sure, they may have made a number of changes but at the end of the day, a victory is a victory and for the first time this season there was a nice feeling of positivity in the stadium and on social media following the result. Some have questioned Paul Clement’s decision to risk so many first team players but I believe the decision may well be vindicated if we get off the mark for the League season against Bolton. Birmingham certainly didn’t appear to value the cup that highly, so although a victory is nice, Bolton will be a much sterner test.
That being said however, this is arguably the best time to play Bolton because of the week that they have had. On the opening day, they overcame recently relegated West Brom which in itself certainly is no mean feat considering the fact the Baggies have picked up two wins and a draw since. Bolton snatched a win and were certainly the better team for a lot of the game last weekend against Bristol City. Even in the week, they put together a decent performance although they eventually lost against a Leeds United side who have started this season on fire and look to be in with their best shot of challenging for promotion since their relegation from the top tier 14 years ago. Everything was going well for Bolton and with 4 points out of 6 they look like a team who will be stronger than last season where they survived by the skin of their teeth on the final day.
This however all came before a bizarre twist in the week, where it was announced during their clash with Leeds that Reading legend Adam Le Fondre would be leaving the Macron having been offered a new challenge in the A-League with Sydney. A strange move when you consider the popularity the forward enjoyed with Bolton fans and with the transfer window already shut. It certainly didn’t quite add up and it’ll be very interesting to see the reaction of players and fans alike come 3 o’clock on Saturday.
Most if not all Reading fans will need no introduction to the man who will be planning Reading’s demise this weekend. Few people have enjoyed success and popularity amongst Reading fans as Phil Parkinson and having been voted as the clubs best ever midfielder with 60% of the vote, it is fairly easy to suggest the reception will be as warm as possible for an opposition manager. Having moved to Bolton from Bradford his tenure certainly has been a mixed bag with promotion in his first season and only just avoiding relegation last season. Parkinson will be hoping for a better campaign this time around and I’m sure all of us would hope for a similar fate, just not starting this weekend.
In terms of the players likely to give the Reading back line some headaches, one man stands out for me. Having made the step up from League One, I am very interested to see how Erhun Oztumer performs. For the last couple of seasons, I found myself (probably for the first time in my life) rather envious of Walsall fans as Oztumer lit League One alight. I was somewhat surprised to not see him make the move last season and with all due respect, I felt he could’ve gone to a club a step above the side who just about secured their Championship status. Nevertheless, keeping the elusive playmaker quiet will be vital should we pick up three points on the weekend. I’m not blown away or particularly fearful of any other players, it must be said. With Sammy Ameobi touch and go, the attacking options do appear a bit light given that Le Fondre’s recent departure has left a hole that hasn’t been filled with a loan signing (yet.) The attacking situation is so light that they are keeping a hold of youngster Connor Hall who they’d planned on letting leave on loan until a new arrival comes in.
As for predictions this week, I’m the most confident I have been so far for a home win. I think even with a shortage out wide, we will have too much for the visitors and we will come out with a 2-0 victory – much like midweek.