Games have come quick and fast over the festive period and we now face our fourth game in nine days as we travel to Berkshire to play Reading at the Madejski Stadium on New Year`s Day Bank Holiday Monday, 3rd January (3pm Kick-Off),
The Clarets boosted by their first win of 2011 at home to Sheffield United on New Year`s Day will now be hoping for their first back-to-back win this season away to Reading. Caretaker manager, Stuart Gray got off to a great start after our 4-2 victory over the Blades and will be hoping we can start putting a run together before we find out who our new manager will be following the demise of Brian Laws after that shocking defeat at home to Scunthorpe.
We are currently well-placed to push on for promotion now energised by a change in the management. We are currently in 8th spot on 35 points from 23 games just one point from the play-offs positions and with one to two games advantage over most of the clubs above us.
Reading though will be no easy pushovers as we know to our cost having suffered a 4-0 tonking in the game against them at Turf Moor back in October! We will certainly want revenge for that one!
They too are in the mix for a play-off spot and are currently in 11th spot just one point behind the Clarets although they have played a game mor.
The Royals will be looking to bounce back from a 1-0 defeat to Swansea on New Year`s Day which was only their first loss in nine matches.
Reading Team News:
Reading manager, Brian McDermott will assess both Jobi McAnuff and Mikele Leigertwood ahead of this clash. Both missed out against Swansea in the Royals last game because of illness and a hamstring problem respectively.
Noel Hunt and Jem Karacan were both rested against the Swans but are now expected to return.
Player to watch: Shane Long
23 year old, Republic of International striker, Shane Long is currently Reading`s leading goal scorer with eight goals so far in the League this season. Long, originally a reported Burnley target under Steve Cotterill eventually signed for the Royals from Cork City in June 2006.
Burnley Team News:
There is no news of any injury concerns following our last game against Sheffield United on New Year`s Day.
Martin Paterson must surely be close to a return but has not featured now since the Doncaster Rovers game at home back in November. He seems to have struggled since with a troublesome thigh problem and was still deemed to be not match fit for the last game against the Blades.
Danny Fox too was reported to be undergoing a late fitness test ahead of the game on New Year`s Day but did not make the eighteen in the end. His ankle injury is the problem but even if fit he may struggle to dislodge in form left-back, Brian Easton.
Player to watch: Jay Rodriguez
Jay Rod is beginning to look much more the part in his familiar striking role rather than wasting him out wide. Let`s hope he can add to his tally after scoring his fifth goal of the season against the Blades at home in our last match.
Team & Tactics
This is probably a simple decision for Stuart Gray. With no news of any further injuries, he may as well stick with a winning formula after the impressive 4-2 win over Sheffield United at home on New Year`s Day. If he is tempted to change things around then I could see Jack Cork making a return and maybe, just maybe Steven Thompson has earned a place in the starting eleven!
John Guidetti`s loan from Manchester City runs out on the 3rd January but he will still be in contention to play against Reading whether Burnley manage to extend the loan or not.
Andre Bikey is an unknown entity for this one. Duff appears to have regained the centre back position from the former Reading defender and he looked fairly strong against the Blades. Will Gray be tempted though to put Bikey back in the starting eleven. Bikey after all should be up for playing against his former colleagues and could be interested in making a point.
I am going to be lazy for my team prediction this time round though and will plump for the same eighteen selected for the Blades game. I fully expect Cork to feature at some stage though as well as Bikey.
So its 4-4-2 and:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Easton, Eagles, Alexander, Marney, Elliott, Iwelumo, Rodriguez
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Edgar, Cork, Wallace, Guidetti, Thompson
Oxfordshire referee, Graham Scott gets this one. Scott was promoted to the National List in the summer of 2008. He has played 15 games this season at Championship or lower league level handing out a massive 50 yellow cards and 6 reds! I can`t see Bikey getting back in then!!
Well this won`t be easy but I just sense we are now on a bit of a high following the dismissal of Brian Laws and Russ Wilcox. I fully expect caretaker manager, Stuart Gray to deliver the goods again and although I was predicting a draw before Laws left, I think we might now sneak it 2-1.
We have a little respite from our promotion campaign this Saturday with League 2 promotion hopefuls, Port Vale the visitors to Turf Moor in the third round of the FA Cup on the 8th January (Kick-Off 3pm). We had expected Micky Adams to be the gaffer of the Staffordshire club but he came here a week earlier following his defection to Sheffield United. We shall have to see if Port Vale resolve their management vacancy in time for this clash.