PNE up against pass masters

Reading's Adrian Popa (left) celebrates scoring the opening goal against Aston Villa on Tuesday with Liam Kelly
Reading's Adrian Popa (left) celebrates scoring the opening goal against Aston Villa on Tuesday with Liam Kelly

Preston manager Alex Neil sees Reading as a ‘rare breed’ in terms of their approach to the Championship.

The Royals visit Deepdale on Saturday and are regarded as the division’s pass masters.

Possession – lots of it – is a big part of their game.

In their 2-1 victory against Aston Villa on Tuesday night, Reading had 67% of the ball.

That is a pattern likely to repeated over the course of the season.

Neil said: “I think Reading are quite rare in this division in the way they play.

“Their possession stats and the amount of passes which they complete are high.

“I watched their midweek game on DVD and in the first four or five minutes, I don’t think Aston Villa touched the ball.

“Villa then nearly scored after just three touches and that shows you how different that approach is.

“Three points is the most important thing and teams try to get them in different ways.

“Some retain possession and try to grind you down like that, create chances that way.

“Other teams try to hit you on the break, others are really direct.

“What is the right way of doing it? The way that wins the match is the answer.

“When fans leave a ground, they want to have seen their team win.

“They are not overly fussed how they do it, but it is better when they are entertained.”

Like North End, Reading have four points on the board after three games.

Victory over Villa came courtesy of goals from Adrian Popa and summer buy Modou Barrow.

Before that, they drew 1-1 at home to Fulham, that coming after an opening-day defeat at Queens Park Rangers.

Jaap Stam is expecting a tough game when he brings his side to Lancashire.

North End beat them 3-0 at Deepdale in March, two goals from Tom Barkhuizen and a Daryl Horgan strike clinching an impressive win over a side who would end up as play-off finalists two months later.

Stam said: “It will be very hard to beat them, they know how we play.

“They did last season and they did it very well.

“Preston are very aggressive going forward, we need to know that they’re probably going to be doing that as well.

“We need to be prepared for that, but we will work hard for ourselves to get a result.

“We want to do that in a certain way of playing, if we can’t do that in the way we want to play then we will do it in a 
different way.

“That’s what we’re looking for and we are warned by what happened last season.”

Reflecting on their win over Villa, Stam added: “We needed the three points,it wasn’t going to be easy against a big club, but in how we played, we deserved it.”

Reading made significant moves to strengthen their squad in the summer.

They made five signings, including Icelandic striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson from Wolves, Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone for £2m and midfielder Pelle Clement from Ajax.