MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at Friday night’s Championship contest between Reading and Ipswich in front of the live Sky Sports cameras.
Reading v Ipswich | Saturday 19.45 | Sky Sports 5
In our pre-season predictions, I boldly claimed Ipswich would continue the Mick McCarthy trend of year-on-year improvement and deserved our backing for Championship glory at a fancy price. Little in the opening month has swayed my stance on the Tractor Boys but I’ve had to have a little rethink over Friday’s hosts Reading.
Throughout the summer I had earmarked the Royals down as potential relegation candidates. Steve Clarke’s a decent enough coach but the atmosphere around the Madjeski Stadium didn’t inspire, the signings were workmanlike and there just wasn’t enough spark in attacking areas to warrant any other suggestion but a struggle during 2015/16.
However, the former West Brom boss has managed to drill the Berkshire boys in the art of shape, organisation and defensive compactness during pre-season and now Reading look a bloody hard team to get the better of. What’s more, transfer deadline day brought in not just one, but two potentially game-changing strikers to the Mad Stad.
Former Championship Player of the Year Matej Vydra has arrived on a big money loan move whilst Ola John, who joined Benfica for €12m previously, also arrives on a temporary basis. Only Bristol City have fired in more on-target attempts in the second tier than Reading thus far but the Royals have only netted in five of those 29 efforts – no wonder fans are desperately excited to see the duo join the fold.
But as already mentioned, where the Berkshire boys really excel, is defence. Clarke’s troops have kept two clean sheets already and they’re conceding on average just 1.40 shots-on-target per game. It’s a remarkable statistic and can also be backed up in the general ‘Shots’ trends too – the hosts have faced 15 fewer shots than their nearest rivals across their opening five fixtures. They’ve also fired in the most, surprisingly.
Still, no goals in six as hosts and nine blanks in 13 outings at the Mad Stad under Clarke’s tutorship remains a concern and the Reading manager was also quick to bemoan the international break in the pre-match chit-chat with local media. Royals skipper Paul McShane is now struggling with a back injury whilst Michael Hector, Danny Williams and Paolo Hurtado were only due back from national duty late on Thursday.
It’s certainly not ideal preparation for a side that’s won seven of their last eight duels with Ipswich. Those who like their head-to-head stats will also be keen to hear the hosts have W6-D3-L1 in their last 10 clashes with the Tractor Boys in the Thames Valley, too. The hosts are 5/4 to pocket the points with Bet365 and although I can see them moving forwards sooner than later, I’m not prepared to take those odds.
McCarthy’s visitors should have centre-back and defensive lynchpin Christophe Berra fit but it’s surprising to see the Suffolk side chalked up as big as 13/5 (Bet365). They’ve lost just once in 2015/16, 3-2 at home to early pacesetters Brighton last time out, and scored exactly two goals in each of their five league outings this season.
Scottish wideman Ryan Fraser has impressed since his summer loan signing and was nominated for the first Player of the Month award following his two-goal haul and four assists during August. And our pre-season 66/1 shot for Top Goalscorer, Freddie Sears, has made a blistering start too, continuing his form from 2014/15.
Despite their strong start of W3-D1-L1 (and my faith), Town have been struggling to keep the goals out. McCarthy’s men have kept their sheets clean just once in seven matches overall, including cup competitions, and Reading’s pitiful record in front of goal won’t last forever.
All the Royals trends suggest this should be a decent-scoring fixture but the markets are swayed by their shoddy goals record on home soil. I reckon it may pay to go against the grain and so I’ll back Both Teams To Score at even-money quotes with 10Bet it’s a bet that’s won in eight of Town’s last 10 Championship road trips and there’s enough meat for me to attack this bet in faith.
Reading v Ipswich – Both Teams To Score (1/1 10Bet)
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