Having tucked up Spurs and their manager good and proper in our last outing the new challenge for Sam and his troops is to start picking up points on the road. Given the season started so well with the 3-1 drubbing of Bolton, it`s been a bit of a downhill slide since then, with a disappointing 2-2 draw at the Burra Beasts followed by consecutive losses at Derby (1-0) and Citeh (3-1). 6 goals in 4 away games is manna from heaven after last season`s dross on our travel but the pretence of being a top four team is never going to be achieved until we are winning at least one out of two on the road.
The squad Sam has at his disposal now is arguably our strongest ever in terms of competition. Last night two of the remaining few casualties were put through the ringer as Shola and Babayaro made returns for the reserves against Liverpool over in the large jugged Kerry Katona`s native Warrington. That leaves just Duff, Ramage and potentially Viduka as absentees for the clash.
Reading Team News:
For Reading captain Graeme Murty is expected to retain his place despite the defender suffering from a bout of sickness yesterday. It was probably the shits. Winger Bobby Convey is available following a calf injury but ex-mackem John Oster (ankle) and utility man Kalifa Cisse (knee) remain unavailable for the excitable Steve Coppell.
Provisional squad: Hahnemann, Federici, Murty, de la Cruz, Sonko, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Bikey, Shorey, Rosenior, Fae, Harper, Gunnarsson, Hunt, Convey, Kitson, Doyle, Lita, Long, Halls, Golbourne.
Player to watch: Steven Hunt
Star man for the Royals is potentially Steven Hunt who, when not smashing Chelsea players` skulls in, can provide a teasing cross and a trick or two.
Newcastle Team News:
Coming into the mix is Joey Barton who could be set to make a shock return to the line up at the Madjeski at the weekend. Who this is in place of remains a mystery following the awesome performances of both Emre and Nicky Butt against Tottingham. Again with Viduka`s absence the two little lads up front will hope to have a few more balls played to feet to thrive on. Steven Taylor again looks to be out of favour, with Sam slating his mistakes against Citeh as just cause for axing him. January move on the horizon?
Player to watch: Cacapa
Star man for ourselves will have to be the legend that is Cacapa. If he can hold the back together against the recent goalscoring efforts of Ginger Dave Kitson and Kevin Doyle then we should have a good chance of nicking something at the other end.
Match Facts & Stats
2006/07 lost 0-1
1989/90 drew 3-3 McGhee 2, Quinn (FAC)
1989/90 lost 1-3 Gallacher (LC)
Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
2-1 Newcastle after an ill-tempered game
Pompey next week, the shite the one after.