Get Reading reporter speaks to bwfc.co.uk to preview Saturday's game at home to the Royals
Jonathan Low - a reporter for Get Reading - offers his thoughts on Wanderers’ latest opponents in the Sky Bet Championship this weekend from the Madejski Stadium.
bwfc.co.uk: Having finished 19th last term – nine points about the relegation zone – what were people expecting of the Royals this season and how close has that been to reality?
JL: Supporters were expecting a much better campaign to the one last season and after Steve Clarke had a clear-out of personnel and following an encouraging pre-season, hopes were high of a promotion push. The season started well and Royals were second in mid-October having gained 21 points from their first 11 games. However, despite an impressive run in the FA Cup which saw them reach the quarter-final, the league campaign has been another disappointing one and has faded out due to a number of factors, which included the departures of Clarke and top scorer Nick Blackman. Reading slowly slipped down the table and have never recovered to mount any sort of promotion push.
bwfc.co.uk: Currently just eight points above the bottom three, would you say the players and fans are still keeping an anxious eye over their shoulder as we enter the final weeks of the campaign?
JL: Naturally the players and fans are slightly concerned the team could get dragged into a relegation scrap. However, the general feeling is that they have enough to get over the line. Royals' home form hasn't been too bad and the remaining home games should help them get the points they need to stay clear of the relegation zone.
bwfc.co.uk: There has also been a change in management this term, with Brian McDermott replacing Steve Clarke late last year. Where would you say it went wrong for the latter?
JL: The 4-2 defeat at Fulham on October 24 was the start - and it was more the manner of the defeat which had supporters worried. Reading would go on to win just one of their next eight games. But the final straw was actually what happened off the field, when Clarke went for talks with Fulham about the vacant manager's job. His admission that he was keen to talk to the Cottagers was seen by many supporters as the nail in the coffin and his full committment to Reading was over. From then on there was no way back.
bwfc.co.uk: How has McDermott settled into life following his return to the Madejski Stadium?
JL: It hasn't been easy for McDermott who has taken over an under-performing side. Aside from the FA Cup run, league performances haven't been great and the sooner the season finishes the better. McDermott is likely to oversee a large turnover of players this summer, with the loan players going back to their parent clubs and a number of permanent additions likely. The 54-year-old has talked about building 'something special' at the club and he will be judged properly next season having had a full pre-season with his players and staff.
bwfc.co.uk: Which three players should Wanderers be keeping an eye on today and why?
JL: Ola John is the one player capable of getting fans off their seats in excitement. The Dutch winger has pace and likes to take on opposition defenders. He also has an eye for goal, scoring twice in the last six matches. Danny Williams is a box-to-box midfielder who likes to get stuck in to disrupt play and can also produce a moment of magic from nothing. Striker Deniss Rakels is likely to start on the bench, but should he come on he is one to keep a close eye on. The Latvian has good movement likes to drive forward and get into the penalty area, causing plenty of problems for an opposition defence.
bwfc.co.uk: Finally, back in November, Reading emerged narrow winners in the reverse fixture. What is your score prediction for this afternoon’s encounter?
JL: I can see at least a few goals in this one. I think it will be an open game but I feel Reading will have the edge, so am going for a 2-1 away win.
Jonathan Low can be followed on Twitter @jonathanl50
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