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In opposition this season: Reading

26 June 2014

Championship side Reading will kick off Exeter City’s pre-season schedule when the Royals head to St James Park for a pre-season friendly on Tuesday 15th July. 

In the first of a series of previews ahead of the 2014/15 season, Oliver Roderick takes a look at the sides that will go face-to-face with the Grecians this term.

Last season
Nigel Adkins’ first full season in charge of Reading ended with the Royals falling just short of a play-off place.  Losing just once in the opening ten had the club right up there in among the top six, but six reverses in 13 following that curbed their momentum. 

An Adam Le Fondre hat-trick helped Reading on their way to an eye-catching 7-1 thumping of Bolton Wanderers in mid-January, while their next home game was also heavily one-sided: Blackpool were beaten 5-1 as Le Fondre got three once again.

Reading’s play-off push went to the final day, as they only had to match Brighton’s result at Nottingham Forest. The last-day-drama would eventually go in the Seagulls’ favour though, as Albion scored late to win at the City Ground while the Royals were held by promoted Burnley.

The summer so far
Boardroom matters have dominated the headlines this summer as far as Reading are concerned, with Sir John Madejski revealing last week that ‘several parties’ are interested in taking over the club.

The loss of prolific striker Adam Le Fondre to Cardiff City was a blow for the Royals.  Le Fondre scored 39 goals in a three-year spell, but with a year remaining on his Reading contract he made the move to Wales to link up with Ole Gunnar Solskjær.  18-year-old American striker Andrija Novakovich has been brought in to bolster the Reading frontline.

The Royals announced that young midfielder Aaron Tshibola will put pen to paper on a new contract with the Madejski Stadium club last week, keeping him in Berkshire until 2016.  Fellow youngsters Jake Taylor and Michael Hector signed similar deals earlier on in the close-season.

The manager

Former Tranmere Rovers and Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Nigel Adkins was given his first chance at Football League management when Scunthorpe United promoted him from the role of club physio in late 2006.  Adkins was given the chance in part due to his prior experience in charge of Welsh side Bangor City, with whom he ended his playing career in 2003. 

Guiding Scunthorpe to the Championship at the first time of asking, Adkins quickly became a sought-after coach.  His first crack at second-tier management was unsuccessful and ended in relegation for the Iron, but they were straight back up via the play-offs the following year, and retained their place in that division with a 20th-place finish the year after that. 

That was enough to convince Southampton to secure his services, a decision which paid off as Adkins guided the Saints to back-to-back promotions, rising from League 1 to the Premier League.  Replaced by Mauricio Pochettino midway through the Premier League season, Adkins made his way to the Reading hotseat before that campaign was out, but couldn’t stop the Royals dropping back down to the Championship just a year following their own promotion.

Ones to watch

Despite missing out on Russia’s World Cup squad, Pavel Pogrebnyak knows where the target is.  Impressing when he first came to England with Fulham, Pogrebnyak, who won the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup with former club Zenit in 2008, shocked most when he opted to join Reading rather than remain with the Cottagers following the end of his short-term contract.  He has 18 goals in Reading colours, and after Adam Le Fondre’s departure, the onus will be on Pogrebnyak more than ever to get the goals that help Reading back into the Premier League.

Welsh internationals Hal Robson-Kanu and Chris Gunter are players with high profiles, while winger Royston Drenthe spent four years with Real Madrid between 2008 and 2012. Jamaican international Garath McCleary is also very highly regarded among fans of the Football League.

Head to head
The first encounter between the two clubs happened as far back as 1921, with the Grecians winning 1-0 at Reading before the Royals won by the same scoreline a week later.  Reading have enjoyed more wins in the year since, though Alan Ball was Grecians boss the last time the two sides met. Reading’s 6-4 win at St James Park was followed by a 1-0 Reading win later in the 1993/94 season.

Exeter City wins: 23
Reading wins: 47
Draws: 13

Club links

Welsh midfielder Jake Taylor spent the 2011/12 season on loan at Exeter City, scoring three goals in 30 appearances for the Grecians.  Lawson D’Ath was also leant to City by Reading, with the 21-year-old released by the Royals at the end of last season.

Former Exeter City man Eamonn Dolan is in charge of the Royals’ Academy, having spent a total of 13 years at St James Park as a player, community officer, coach and manager before moving to the Madejski Stadium in 2004.

Key clash
Exeter City 4-6 Reading, St James Park, Sat 9th October 1993

A memorable ten-goal thriller at SJP saw Reading leave Devon with three Division Two points.  Jimmy Quinn hit the first for Reading, before Ronnie Jepson made it 1-1 in front of the away end with the Royals’ defence appealing for offside.  When Mick Gooding’s shot was only parried by Andy Gosney, Stuart Lovell knocked in Reading’s second, with two more goals following before half-time: Gosney erred to allow Lovell to ease another in, before Scott Taylor made it 4-1 at the break.  

Gosney was stretchered off after Reading’s third: this would be his only appearance for the Grecians.
Alan Ball’s team came back into it, with Mickey Ross heading in shortly before breaking to pull it back to 4-3.  Jepson equalised with his second of the match, but Jimmy Quinn’s sweet strike halted Exeter’s impressive comeback.  Scott Taylor became the fourth player of the match to score a brace when he completed the scoring at the end.

Sky Bet are offering odds of 18/1 on Reading winning the Championship title this year. To win promotion, the numbers are 11/2, while the chances of a Royals relegation are 16/1. They kick off their season against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on August 9th, and will host League 2 Newport County AFC in the First Round of the Capital One Cup.

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