Deepdale ready for a Royal visit

Play-off hopefuls Reading make the trip to Preston with a determination to see their away form pick up.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 10th March 2017, 2:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:00 am
John Swift celebrates scoring against Preston in August
John Swift celebrates scoring against Preston in August

While seven wins on the road is decent going, they have lost the last two games on their travels and drew the one before that.

In mitigation, the defeats came against top-six rivals Huddersfield and Brighton.

But an improvement on their travels is a target of the Royals as they look to cement a play-off slot.

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Winger Garath McCleary said: “It would be good to take points from Preston and keep the position that we’ve got in the league.

“It is up to us to go away to Preston and change our away fortunes.

“Preston are in and amongst it in terms of results.

“We’ve got a lot of games after that against teams that are in and around us in the table.

“It would be very good for us to take points from them.”

At the Madejski Stadium, Reading have been in strong form – home is clearly where the heart is.

They are unbeaten in six, the latest in that run being a goalless draw with Newcastle on Tuesday night.

While they had to share the spoils, Jaap Stam’s men won the possession battle – they had 70% of the ball against the Magpies.

North End manager Simon Grayson said: “Reading have got a style of play which is very possession-based.

“They wait and probe, have a lot of passes, they go back to the goalkeeper and play from the back.

“We are slightly different than that but that is not to say we aren’t as good as them.

“Some teams like lots of possession, I saw that Fulham had more than 70% against Leeds on Tuesday night, it was similar when they played us.

“We have played matches before where the other team have had a lot of possession and we have beaten them.”

Grayson is impressed by the job Stam has done since taking over at the Royals in the summer.

The Dutchman’s first game in charge was the 1-0 win over North End on the opening day, John Swift netting.

Said Grayson: “Jaap went to Holland and worked through the ranks, which is the way the foreign coaches tend to do.

“They start at grassroots and go up from there.

“Jaap got his opportunity in the summer with Reading and they are a good team.

“We will respect what they do, Reading spent quite a lot of money in the window as well, bringing in Lewis Grabban, Jordan Mutch and one or two others.

“What we’ve got to do is keep our foot on the gas and try to get three points.”

In his playing career, Stam cut an imposing figure in the heart of Manchester United’s defence for three seasons.

Grayson said: “Jaap still looks in good condition and I’m sure he could still kick one or two players.

“Hopefully there will be nothing to dispute in the technical area with him.

“I won’t be running across his technical area to celebrate a goal if we score – I’ll go the other way!”