Writer: Rory O'Sullivan
Date:Friday August 21 2009
Reading have not found the net in their first three league games. But will it be fourth time lucky for the Royals as they seek to end their goal drought when they entertain Sheffield United this weekend? Reading have an excellent record against Sheffield United, but gone are the days when Wally Downes and Neil Warnock would size each other up when these two sides met. This weekend's encounter may be a more docile affair than both sets of fans are used to.
"The squad is not very big and picks itself."
Kevin Blackwell doesn't believe he has much strength in depth ahead of his side's trip to the Madejski.
"We're still in the early stages, up until that first international break I still think it's pre-season in many ways."
Speaking to the official site, it seems Brendan needs to check his calendar. And his priorities.
The Royals boss has every right to shuffle the side after not just being played off the park but rather run out of town at Swansea in midweek. Expect, however, to see him maintain faith with the younger talent. In particular, Hal Robson-Kanu and James Henry did show on Tuesday that they can cause players problems. Rodgers has said this week that 'patience is a virtue' so if he is expecting anything out of these players as attacking outlets, he can certainly be expected to give them another chance this weekend.
Who he chooses to start up front may pose more of a selection headache. Noel Hunt is not 100% fit for this game, so do not be surprised if Shane Long or Simon Church are favoured instead of the Irish forward.
Marek Matejovsky, Ivar Ingimarsson, Jimmy Kebe and Chris Armstrong are all still out of contention and will not be able to feature against the Blades this weekend.
It was surprising to see the attacking midfielder withdrawn at half-time against Swansea, having illustrated that he is a more-than capable player at this level. If he can create space for himself in the middle against the Blades, he will pose a serious threat. He could well be the key to that elusive first goal.
Brian Howard (remember him? yes, the day the Royals' automatic promotion campaign really did collapse) is a doubt for this match after sloping off the pitch against Leicester in midweek.
The Blades will be buoyed, however, by the news that Stephen Quinn is back in contention after recovering from a knock, while Lee Hendrie is available for selection following his serving of a four-match ban.
A great deal is expected of this Welsh youngster. Boss Kevin Blackwell went to great lengths in order to secure the forward's signature this summer, forking out £3m to Manchester City this summer. He has already found the net for the Blades this season, scoring the second in his side's first win of the season when they beat Watford 2-0 at Bramall Lane.
Beneath a drizzly, murky Berkshire afternoon, Brian Howard ensured it was a miserable day for the Royals. Minutes after Dave Kitson had shuddered the crossbar for Reading, the Blades forward apologetically tumbled the ball past Federici for the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory for the away side. Despite a near-miss for automatic promotion, this loss is easily identifiable as one of the occasions that the Royals bottled it in their quest to reach the Premier League.
It's got to come, surely. It must. The Royals WILL score a goal. But don't get carried away: even Swansea posed plenty of problems for the Royals defence in midweek. Expect the goal drought to be concluded, but with a cost at the other end. 1-1.
After a home tie against Barnsley in the Carling Cup on Tuesday, the Royals face the Tykes again just four days later as they travel to Oakwell next Saturday.
Date:Friday August 21 2009
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