Reading vs Middlesbrough preview: Can Warnock save the Teesiders?
(Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Neil Warnock's Middlesbrough travel to Berkshire just two points clear of the relegation spots having had mixed results under the veteran manager.

The Riverside outfit have suffered four defeats from the six games managed by the former Sheffield United and QPR manager, including a 3-1 loss to play-off chasing Bristol City on Saturday.

Striker Britt Assombalonga scored a late consolation goal following a Nahki Wells brace and Jamie Paterson third.

Meanwhile Tuesday's opponent's Reading scraped a controversial 1-0 win against Charlton Athletic.

A third minute goal from George Puscas was enough to get the team over the line, despite numerous dubious refereeing decisions that seemed to fall their way.

It was enough to keep Mark Bowen's side 13th, four points off of Blackburn Rovers in the top half.

 

Key Battle

Reading are three matches unbeaten, but the more impressive aspect of those wins is the fact that they have all contained clean sheets for the Royals.

For the North-East side to have any hope of winning, they will need to get the better of this resilient outfit.

Having scored just 43 goals, they are the lowest scorers in the division.

So with the lowest scorers coming up against the best defensive side outside the top 10, having conceded just 48 goals, it is not going to be a goal-fest.

However as always with a Warnock side, nobody can bet against a smash-and-grab 1-0 win for the 71 year-old.

 

Last Meeting

Back in September, Jonathan Woodgate got his first win as Boro boss against Jose Gomes' Reading.

Marvin Johnson's strike was enough for a 1-0 win at the Riverside.

In fact, the away side have won all of the previous six meetings against Reading.

The last win for the Royals came in October 2015, a 2-1 win to send Steve Clarke's team temporarily into the automatic promotion spaces.

As for Warnock, he has faced Reading 24 times in his career, most famously with the Blades as both sides were fighting for promotion to the Premier League in the early 2000s.

He has won just five times- the last being a 1-0 win as QPR manager in December 2015- but lost 14 times.

 

Team News

Ovie Ejaria and Andy Yiadom remain doubts through injury- with Bowen expected to name and unchanged line-up from the win against the Addicks at the Valley on Saturday.

Warnock is expected to recall Lewis Wing to the midfield.

 

Manager's Thoughts

Bowen is wary of his players' attitude now that they are mathematically safe, but assures fans he will not let the players coast to the end of the season.

He told the club website:

"I’ll never let players sit back and think, ‘we’re mid-table, it doesn’t really matter’. In this league, you’ll get beat. If you take the top three or four teams out of it, and there’s very little between the rest of them.

"You only need to have one or two players who are going through the motions a bit, and you won’t win. It’s as simple as that.

“I’ve got a hell of a lot of respect for Neil and what he’s done in this division. He’s the king of it. He gets the best out of his team and seems to get results week in, week out.

“He’ll look at us and try to find faults in our game, any weaknesses, and try to exploit them. So we need to make sure we’re well prepared.”

 

Warnock meanwhile has been discussing the attacking weaknesses of the team, having been lowest league scorers for the past three seasons, and how the club cannot afford to be relegated.

He told the Yorkshire Post:

"When you look at it for three years, it has got to be more than tactics, hasn’t it?

“To be bottom of the Championship scorers three years running is incredible really, I didn’t quite believe it.

“It’s an important three games in the club’s history, really.

 “We just can’t afford to get relegated.”

He believes that Middlesbrough are a club which other Championship teams want to do particularly well against, he said:

“The problem Middlesbrough would have is every team that comes to your stadium, it’s like Wembley, they all want to play above themselves and that’s what makes it harder to come straight back up.

“Players do lift themselves 15, 20 per cent.

“It’s hard enough in that league without people playing above themselves against you.”

 

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