Preston v Reading
Sunday January 24, 12:30
Preston pinch the points at Birmingham
Preston boosted their Championship play-off hopes with a narrow 1-0 win at Birmingham on Wednesday night. After an even first half, the visitors should have taken the lead shortly after the break when Brad Potts wasted a great opportunity when he could only fire against the post. Potts then drew a fine save before North End eventually made their pressure tell.
In torrential rain at times, the Lilywhites’ winner was the only real moment of quality as Scott Sinclair turned sharply on the halfway line and fed Jayson Molumby who drove forward before teeing up the former Aston Villa man to slot home his eighth of the season. Preston then managed to see out seven minutes of stoppage-time pressure from the hosts.
Speaking post-match, PNE boss Alex Neil said: “We’ve had a bit of a transitional season which was always going to come because of contracts and different things. To come and win in the manner we did, be 10th and a bit outside the play-offs, I think we’ve done pretty well. Hopefully this year, but certainly next year, is going to be a big year for us.”
Reading enjoy cushy home success
Lucas Joao and John Swift produced a goal and an assist apiece as Reading‘s attacking firepower proved too much for 10-man Coventry at the Madjeski Stadium in midweek. The Royals were 3-0 winners with Joao slamming home his 17th goal of the season after a quarter of an hour and Veljko Paunovic‘s men then soon taking control of the contest.
Ovie Ejaria hit the post after a mesmeric dribble but Andy Rinomhota doubled Reading’s lead straight after the break with a drilled effort from just outside the box. Coventry’s chances reduced following Kyle McFadzean’s sending off and from the subsequent free-kick Swift wrapped things up for the Royals with a stunning, dipping 30-yard strike.
Victory for Reading consolidated the club’s position inside the top-six with Paunovic saying post-match: “It was a very good performance. I wasn’t entirely happy how we started the game. The reaction was our first goal. We got where we wanted to be. We had the lead, which was very important to us.” Andy Yiadom and Yakou Meite are close to returning.
Preston were 3-0 winners in the reverse meeting back in early November, a result that foiled a five-match winning streak for Reading in this fixture. Indeed, the Royals have won on each of their previous two trips to Deepdale, as well as collecting four triumphs on this ground in nine visits. None of the last 12 head-to-heads have ended all-square.
Only four Championship clubs are posting a lower points per-game return on home soil than Preston 2.767/4 this season. The Lilywhites have managed only W4-D1-L7 at Deepdale, last losing more home league games in their 2010/11 relegation campaign. However, Alex Neil’s troops have taken top honours here in four of their most recent seven outings (W4-D1-L2).
Ten points from a possible 12 since Christmas has helped to entrench Reading 2.8815/8 in the top-six race with the Royals proving particularly proficient against sides outside the top-eight this term. Thus far, the Berkshire boys have collected W12-D2-L3 against sides in ninth and below, including an impressive W5-D2-L1 return on their travels.
Deepdale hasn’t been the most reliable base for goal-heavy games in the Championship in 2020/21. Only 4/12 (33%) matches have featured Over 2.5 Goals 2.245/4 as contests have produced a tally of only 1.92 goals per-game, while at least one team has failed to score in 10 of those 12 home tussles – PNE themselves firing blanks in half of their home fixtures.
Meanwhile, Reading have proven to be one of the more watchable sides in the second-tier. The Royals have scored in 20 of their 24 matches under Veljko Paunovic’s charge, recording just four shutouts in their last 17 league dates. A chunky 8/12 (67%) of outings outside of their Berkshire base have seen both sides score and a repeat is trading at 1.9720/21 here.
With few standout plays it might be worth taking an each-way punt on Lucas Joao to score first at [7/2] on the Sportsbook. The Portuguese ace has notched in 14 of his 19 appearances across all competitions this season, including seven of his past eight Championship encounters. On penalty duty, Joao has also broken the deadlock in six of his 18 starts.
Taking the each-way option allows us to be paid 1/3 of the odds should Reading’s star striker notch at anytime.