Reading host Blackburn Rovers in the Championship on Wednesday.
The visitors went top of the table after beating West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Sunday, while Reading were thrashed 4-0 by Rotherham United on Saturday.
Having entered the Championship season as one of most bookmakers’ three shortest-priced teams to be relegated, it always looked likely to be a tough situation for Paul Ince to navigate at Reading.
The former England midfielder took over as manager in February, keeping the Royals up with a couple of games to spare in the end despite the club being hit with a six-point deduction after breaking financial fairplay rules.
The threat of another six-point penalty looms should Reading’s business plan fail to adhere to the required standards which were set out to them by the English Football League’s regulatory body last October, but in the meantime Ince must ensure that his players focus on improving on the pitch.
So far, a home win over Cardiff City has been sandwiched by two away defeats, with the latter against potential relegation rivals Rotherham on Saturday a devastating blow to the already diminishing confidence levels throughout the Berkshire-based club.
All four goals were scored prior to the half-time interval, with Reading goalkeeper Joe Lumley failing to make a single save across the entire 90 minutes as Paul Warne’s side put on a clinical display.
Ince will hope that a return to the Select Car Leasing Stadium sparks a major reaction against league leaders Blackburn on Wednesday, but they will need more than their home support to achieve a positive result, as their embarrassing EFL Cup exit at the hands of Stevenage last week illustrated.
Indeed, having lost several first-team players and making the curious move to replace Tony Mowbray with Jon Dahl Tomasson in the dugout, not much was expected of Blackburn this season despite finishing eighth last time out.
However, after only three matches, Rovers join Leyton Orient of League Two as the only Football League team with a 100% record, following a brilliant start to life under the former Denmark striker’s management.
Tomasson twice won the Swedish Allsvenskan division in his previous spell with Malmo, but having only managed Excelsior and Roda JC in the Netherlands several years ago prior to that, there was plenty of scepticism surrounding the appointment, particularly after Mowbray had generally performed well on a relatively limited budget.
Queens Park Rangers, Swansea City and West Brom have all been dispatched in the early weeks of the campaign, though, with Rovers scoring six goals overall before finally conceding their first goal of the season when Grady Diangana pulled one back for the Baggies at the weekend.
Tomasson’s offensive style has been a breath of fresh air in an increasingly conservative division, with the 45-year-old deploying four attackers in the shape of Ben Brereton Diaz, Sam Gallagher, Sammie Szmodics and Ryan Hedges, while injury-hit Bradley Dack chipped in with a goal in the 4-0 win against Hartlepool United in the EFL Cup last week.
Whether his side can keep their winning streak going for too much longer is another matter, but they will be confident of doing so against a hapless Reading outfit on Wednesday.
Reading Championship form:
Reading form (all competitions):
Blackburn Rovers Championship form:
Blackburn Rovers form (all competitions):
We say: Reading 1-3 Blackburn Rovers
We can envisage the visitors running riot given their higher confidence levels and superior results of late.
Diaz and Gallagher are in great goalscoring form at present and, with Joao still out injured, Reading lack a reliable source of goals while appearing to be leaky in defence.