Royals face double header week against Derby County and Brentford

George Puscas
Reading v Stoke City George Puscas

READING MANAGER Mark Bowen has emphasised the importance of utilising the Royals’ large playing squad with the games coming thick and fast to conclude the Championship season.

The Royals will be looking to kickstart the Championship restart after the disappointment of having to settle for a draw at home to Stoke at the weekend after a late equaliser.

“We’ve got a squad of 29 which will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season,” said Bowen.

“The big squads will have an advantage.”

The Welshman was frustrated with the referee and his team after they surrendered two points in stoppage time against Stoke, but isn’t give up hope of making the play-offs just yet.

“There were a few draws above us and we would have been in a position to close the gap if we had won,” continued the Royals boss.

“I won’t give up on pushing for the play-offs until it’s mathematically impossible. We’re constantly looking above us.

“I was exasperated by the whole performance by the referee.

“I thought the referee raised my blood pressure a few times. We had two penalties that weren’t given and numerous free kicks.

“We had some crowd noise which hopefully would have drowned out some of my expletives.

“The game should have been beyond Stoke by that point, but we should have had two stone wall solid penalties, I can#t understand it.

“If we had a home crowd, maybe we would have got something.”

Bowen’s side travel away to Derby County on Saturday (3pm) before hosting Brentford on Tuesday evening (6pm) in what will become a familiar schedule with both weekend and midweek games to conclude the season.

Derby, like Reading, have had a largely unspectacular campaign which has seen them float around mid-table for much of the campaign.

They were dealt a boost with their first game back in action on Saturday against Millwall when 18-year-old Louie Sibley netted a hat-trick to give the Rams a 3-2 away victory.

Derby are in 12th position in the table, two places and four points above the Royals going into Saturday’s clash.

Phillip Cocu’s side were beaten comprehensively at the Madejski Stadium back when the teams met in December.

Shaun Moloney received a red card after five minutes as the Bowen’s boys went on to record a comfortable win courtesy of goals from Charlie Adam, Yakou Meite and Lucas Joao.

The Royals are likely to be without Lucas Joao who suffered a hamstring injury in the first-half against Stoke on Saturday. Meanwhile, Pele is expected to be out while he attempts to return back to full fitness.

“Lucas Joao was a focal point and he got his goal. I spoke to him at half time and he said he didn’t feel anything pull or snap but he felt his hamstring stiffen up really quickly,” Bowen said.

“That’s a positive sign, but sometimes things seem okay and we won’t know for sure until he has a scan.

Reading then continue the hectic end to the 2019/20 season with a home fixture against promotion chasing Brentford.

The Bees are currently in fourth place, with a place in the play-offs at the very least looking likely.

Thomas Frank’s team strengthened their promotion bid with an impressive 2-0 away win at fellow promotion chasers Fulham with two late goals.

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