Happy Friday one and all. This weekend sees the visit of Hull City to the Madejski, with Reading fresh from another shocking performance at home in the week against Norwich City. Four home defeats our of four, dwindling attendances, toxic atmospheres and murmurings of discontent getting louder and louder with every week that goes by. Without meaning to repeat my criticism of the club that I seem to be writing considerably more about than praise, times are very tough at the moment. Does I really fancy us getting a victory this weekend? I’m struggling to tell at the moment. On paper, you’d of thought this is a very winnable game. On grass however, the inept, slow, passive and disjointed players hardly fill me with any form of confidence.
As for our visitors, Hull have not had the best of starts either. Although they have picked up more victories than us – truthfully that is not a hard feat to achieve. Despite victories over fellow strugglers Ipswich and Rotherham away from home, inconstancy has run through this team. Having lost to Wigan in the week, the mood amongst supporters seems to replicate the mood in Berkshire at the moment. In truth, the only shred of positivity I have coming into this game is the fact that much like Preston last week this is a bit of an early season six pointer.
Hull have injuries worries coming into this game with promising young midfielder Dan Batty ruled out with a knee injury. Batty is likely to be replaced in the centre of the park by either Jackson Irvine or Kevin Stewart, next to Markus Henriksen. It is another young player however who I think has the potential to become the next Maddison by making the step up to the top tier. Jarrod Bowen was linked with a £12m move to Everton this summer and it has easy to see why. His pace, trickery and end product served him well last year as he broke through in a struggling Hull side. 2 goals so far this year, I’m certainly not looking forward to Chris Gunter inevitably being caught out multiple times in the 90 minutes by the youngster. Alongside these youngsters Hull do not have a bad squad at all, with experienced players such as Kamil Grosicki, Chris Martin, Evandro, David Marshall and Tommy Elphick all vying for starting spots this weekend. Having said that we don’t have a bad side on paper either. So based on our pathetic performances so far this season, that truthfully can count for very little.
The man in the dugout needs no introduction this week. Former Reading boss and all round bastion of posititvity Nigel Adkins will certainly be eager to get on over on us. Although he is arguably best known and regarded for his brilliant tenure at Southampton, I do think that he never showed his true capabilities at the Madejski. However since his departure, he took over Sheffield United and led them to their lowest league position since 1983 and has seen a win rate of just 28% in his current position. Arguably Adkins appears to be a manager who appears to be tailing off in his career. As I said he’ll be desperate to motivate the Tigers to retribution over his former employers this weekend.
Predictions time. I’m going for a defeat and a subsequent meltdown amongst supporters and players alike at the full time whistle. Why? Well, I’m usually wrong in these. So lets hope I continue that trend this week.
Well, well, well… Saturday was a bit of a shock wasn’t it? Anyone who read my preview certainly can appreciate that I wasn’t hugely expectant coming into the game at Deepdale to say the least! Maximum credit to the side however, going ahead twice and conceding twice in the current run of form we’re in certainly isn’t the situation I would’ve imagined would lead to our first victory in the league this year. It was our day however and we finally broke our terrible run of form with Paul Clement picking up his first away win in charge. Is this the victory that we need to ignite our season and push on? Well, look at QPR. After the results against West Brom and Bristol City they looked down and out. Fans were calling for Mclaren’s head, players weren’t performing – some could say it was similar to the situation we’ve been in this year just with more dramatic defeats. One win quickly led to another and next thing you know, talks of managers leaving are a distant memory. The victory against Preston really could be just the stepping stone we need to push up the table and pick up some points at home and away from the Madejski. Here’s hoping.
What about Norwich however? Well, inconsistency has certainly been a key theme of their campaign the season. On the face of it. picking up a victory against Middlesbrough on the weekend seems to suggest that they’re a team who should be challenging up the top of the table. However, they find themselves in 17th position. They’ve won this year against Premiership Cardiff City in the cup away from home, West Brom away from home and Middlesbrough at home. All of these results are difficult ones to pick up ad suggest Norwich could be a real threat. They have however drawn against Birmingham and Ipswich who certainly would be sides with all due respect that promotion challengers would see as winnable games. Whenever they seem to get a good victory, a disappointing result follows. So, do expect Reading to break this curse tonight. That’s just what we do, isn’t it?
There is a lot of quality throughout the Norwich side. Since their spells in the Premier League, they’ve maintained a quality that a lot of Championship sides would be envious of. However injuries are plaguing the Canaries and they will be without a number of first team starters tonight. Ben Marshall, Marco Stiepermann, Ivo Pinto and Onel Hernandez have been ruled out with Hernandez being arguably the biggest loss for Daniel Farke’s men. Hernandez has been directly involved in five goals so far this year – with two goals and three assists and is a real handful going forward. However, when you have Jordan Rhodes waiting in the wings to partner Pukki up top – they have a good amount of quality available going forward. Expect to see Mario Vranic coming in for Stiepermann given the fact they’re very similar players. Elsewhere they have a lot of experienced talent amongst the squad including Tim Krul in goal, defensive stalwart Tim Klose, midfield engine Alex Tettey and exciting young talents such as German U21 full back Felix Passlack and Ben Godfrey. Norwich certainly have enough quality to have a very solid campaign this year.
In charge they have German Daniel Farke. Having spent time in charge of the Borussia Dortmund second team the Norwich role is technically his first in management. I’d love to sit here and write an extensive thesis documenting the highs and lows of Norwich’s season last year but if one word could sum it up it’d be uneventful. Finishing in 14th Norwich amassed 15 victories, 15 draws and 16 defeats last year with a -11 goal difference. To suggest Norwich didn’t set the league on fire last year would be an understatement. Farke will certainly be wishing for more consistency and more excitement this year but their start suggests it could be another average season should they continue at their current rate. Would Farke survive until May with another season like last years? With the short term nature of football management nowadays, I doubt it.
Predictions time. Having backed a hefty Reading defeat against Preston and a victory against Bolton earlier this season, it is safe to say whatever I call here will probably be wrong. I’m going to perch firmly on the fence ahead of this game and go for a run of the mill 1-1 draw. So feel free to go ahead and back a victory either way folks.
Hello all and welcome back to another preview. We head up to Preston tomorrow with the mood amongst the supporters the lowest I can remember in an awfully long time. The full details of Ron Gourlay’s frightful ineptitude have emerged in some senses of the media, with right hand man Brian Tevrenden leaving the club fuelling more questions than ever about the current state of affairs at boardroom level. It seems like the heart of the club is being ripped out more and more with each week and each abject performance we have seen. Now, you certainly cannot pin the blame for the players disgraceful performances solely on Gourlay and the rest of the depleted hierarchy, but it certainly cannot help the mood in the group. So, with that all said and done, things can realistically only get better – can’t they?
As for our opponents this weekend, we face Preston North End. Another team who have had a far from convincing start to the season, they sit five places above us in 19th place. Aside from a 2-0 victory away at Leeds United in the EFL Cup with 10 men, no results have really stood out as being particularly exceptional. They’re without a win since the opening day of the season, having picked up maximum points against QPR. Straight forward victories for Swansea, Norwich and Derby have followed alongside draws against Bolton and Stoke. Whether Preston will be looking for anything above a mid table finish this year depends on who you ask I suppose, but I don’t think they have a squad capable of making too much of an impression towards the business end of the table. To add to what I perceive as a lack of real quality in the starting XI they will be without two of their midfielders likely to have started through suspension. One of these Ben Pearson I think is the sort of player who could really cause us trouble given the lack of quality we have in the middle of the park. Ryan Ledson is the other player out for tomorrow’s game. One player who we will certainly have to keep an eye on is Tom Barkhuizen, who has scored more goals against us than any other team in the league – so I hope you’re as excited as I am to see him get his name on the scoresheet in the 16th minute (I am sorry in advance if this comes true.) Although I don’t see a huge amount of quality in the ranks, I think Preston along with probably 23 other teams in this division won’t find a visit from Reading as a particularly daunting prospect.
As for the man in charge at Preston, we have Scottish Hardman Alex Neil. I think he is a manager who although is not the most glamorous of names who plays a Manchester City-esque for of total football, he is a very safe pair of hands. Having impressed at Hamilton in his first managerial job, he took over at Norwich and managed to get the Canaries 17 wins out of 25 games to get them into the playoffs and then subsequently the Premiership. Although relegation followed the following season, I think Neil has showed his pedigree as a good young coach. Having said this, I think his recruitment of players does need some work. He cited poor recruitment as a reason for Norwich’s poor performance in the top tier and for whatever reason I don’t believe he’s particularly shone in this regard at Preston either. On the pitch however his side at Preston has been consistent at worst, with a win rate of just over 40%. Will he pick another up against Reading this weekend? I’ll let you all make up your mind, but I think it’s clear how I see this game going.
My prediction for this one shockingly isn’t a conclusive away victory. The morale amongst players seems so low and supporters seem more reluctant to back them than ever previously. Preston is a very tough place to go and like Blackburn, probably will feel a long way from home for the players and the brave few supporters planning on making the trip up to Lancashire. Something surely needs change for results to change and the only changes we have seen since the latest embarrassing performance is the turmoil at the top of the club. Players seem dejected, fans seem to be turning to the point of anger and the board seem hell bent on making things worse. I have a bad feeling it’ll be a very easy afternoon for Preston. I’m going with a 3-0 defeat.