In a few weeks time this game could be a possible playoff final. I’m quite happy to admit that I didn’t give either side much chance of being in this position before the season began. As I’ve covered Huddersfield a lot over recent weeks, it’s probably time to give Reading the once over.
After a relatively sluggish start, the Royals been outside of the top ten since mid-September but they look like a team that’s going to end up marooned in the playoff places for the rest of the season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a club that spent the last two campaigns in the bottom third of the table, but still indicates that they’ll probably have to go the long way round for promotion and may be better off waiting for next season.
They’ve been excellent at the Madejski Stadium – only two defeats in their last ten – but although their away form has improved substantially this season, they’ve only kept four clean sheets in fifteen away games, with three shutouts coming against sides currently in the bottom half of the current table.
Crucially, just over half of their thirteen away goals this season have been scored between the 76th and 90th minutes – and five of those were the difference between a draw and a win. Yann Kermogant, Garath McCleary and Jon Swift are their leading goal scorers away from home, but significantly Kermogant hasn’t scored on the road since netting twice in four minutes at Bristol City at the start of last month and McCleary hasn’t scored an away goal since Bonfire Night. That’s far from being the end of the story though: this season nine other players have scored one goal each in Reading’s travels. Summing up, Reading are making their own luck in away games, clearly have goals throughout the team but – surprisingly for a team that’s managed by one of the best defenders in Europe in his prime – can be a bit dodgy at the back.
Huddersfield away has not been a particularly profitable match for Reading. The Royals last win in West Yorkshire came in December 2013, but Town won the next two meetings by an aggregate of 6-1. Significantly, the last draw between the sides at Huddersfield was in October 1992: this season only one of the 19 games between the teams currently in the top six has finished all square. Seven have been won by the away side, but Reading have already lost by two goals at both Leeds and Newcastle this season.
I’ll be back on Friday with a look at the games that matter at both ends of the table, so see you then.