City’s encouraging end to 2023 continued with a deserved point against table toppers Portsmouth, and so it’s in good spirit that Gary Caldwell’s side begins 2024 with what appears to be a relegation six-pointer – whoever loses will be in the bottom four come 5pm.
City’s injury problems continued with Yanic Wildschut missing the 0-0 draw on Friday night after limping off early against Wycombe, meaning once again City were only able to field six substitutes. To that end Pedro Borges has been recalled from his loan and will be in the squad at Reading. Elsewhere Caldwell may need to make changes due to fatigue with this City’s fourth game in ten days meaning the likes of Kyle Taylor, Harry Kite, Pierce Sweeney and James Scott could be in line for recalls to the starting XI.
Beset by off-field turmoil that has seen them deducted four points (with the threat of further deductions continuing to hang over them), Reading’s first season back in the third tier has understandably seen the Royals struggle. Manager Ruben Selles has had to cope with the off-field issues that have spilled over into a number of matchday protests against the club’s ownership. There do appear to be signs of life, however, with Reading unbeaten in their last five league matches – albeit four of them draws, with both of their post-Christmas fixtures seeing them come from behind to draw 2-2. In terms of goal threat Reading have been indebted to the former Cambridge pair of Sam Smith and Harvey Knibbs, who have six and five league goals respectively, while Charlie “son of Robbie” Savage has been a useful addition in midfield since moving from Manchester United.
The sides have already met twice this season – City took the honours in the league game thanks to an injury time strike from Reece Cole – Aimson had given City the lead only for Knibbs to cancel it out on the stroke of half time before Cole’s late intervention. The less said about the EFL Trophy game the better, as what was essentially a youth team fixture saw Reading romp to a record 9-0 win. This match will mark City’s first visit to the Madejski Stadium, their last match at Reading being at Elm Park in January 1994, Reading winning 1-0 through Uwe Hartenberger. Back in the day this was a frequent league fixture with Reading having a big lead, 47-23 with just 13 draws.
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Assistant Referees: Lee Venamore and Greg Read
Fourth Official : Will Finnie
Anthony Backhouse has taken charge of a number of Exeter games, the last being the 3-1 defeat away at Cheltenham.