Reading and Luton were four leagues apart 10 years ago, yet next season they could be separated by two – in the opposite direction. A decade largely of mismanagement has come down to these last four games for the Royals, who could yet have the chance to rebuild in the Championship next season, with sanctions set to be listed and high-earners off the wage bill. Conversely, the Hatters’ stunning rise could culminate in top-flight football at Kenilworth Road for the first time in 31 years.
Reading Now Hunt-ers Not the Hunt-ed
After Paul Ince was dismissed as Royals boss last week, Noel Hunt took temporary charge and galvanized the Berkshire club, who held Burnley to a goalless draw.
Of course, the Clarets were already promoted by this game and rang the changes, but they are still one of the greatest ever second-tier teams – even if the result means they can no longer surpass Reading’s 106-point record of 2005-06.
Even a rotated, slightly less incentivized Burnley are still a massive threat, and Hunt’s side showed the battling qualities required to limit the champions-elect to just one shot on target. This does make their odds of 19/5 with BetUK to win this game appealing.
If Reading can take that organisation into the final four games, they should climb out of the drop zone. It’s understandable to see why Betfair are offering 17/10 on the Royals getting relegated this season despite currently being positioned in the bottom three. That could largely be down to their fixture list being deemed slightly more favourable than their rivals around them for these remaining matches.
Luton’s Mean Defence
Speaking of Burnley, the runaway leaders were the only team to beat Luton in their previous 16 games. It not only shows how fantastic Vincent Kompany’s men have been this season but it’s also evidence of how resolute the Hatters have become this season.
Head coach Rob Edwards’ reputation has been as one who favours extremely adventurous wing-backs, two centre-forwards and a number 10, which one might think lends itself to scoring a lot of goals and conceding many too, but the Hatters have been far more solid than might have been expected.
In the aforementioned 16 games, Town have conceded only seven goals, nearly a third of the number rivals Watford have conceded! It’s no surprise that they are now in 3rd place in the table, can still go up automatically, and are priced at 3/1 with Bet365 to be promoted this season.
The Tactics Board
The system Hunt deployed to nullify Burnley was a 4-4-2, only slightly lopsided: Tyrese Fornah was deployed on the left side of midfield, tasked with helping out Nesta Guiness-Walker, who might otherwise have been vulnerable defensively against Manuel Benson.
On the other side, Hunt knew he could rely on Andrew Yiadom defensively, so right winger Femi Azeez could stay further forward and be used as a speedy out-ball to get Reading up the pitch and a similar system could be used against Luton.
In the absence of Alfie Doughty, the Hatters deployed Amari’i Bell at left wing-back, leaving Tom Lockyer to cover his place at left centre-back, only the Welsh defender isn’t the quickest.
As such, there could be opportunities for Reading to release Azeez against Lockyer, then play for cutbacks to Lucas João and Kelvin Ehibhatiomham, who are available at 15/4 and 11/2 respectively to score anytime with Bet365.
Reading vs Luton Betting Tips
Based on the mathematics, Luton are rightly strong favourites at 10/11 with QuinnBet for this match, even as the visitors. However, the Hatters securing a top-six spot is a mere formality, and they could be as many as 8 points off second-placed Sheffield United by kick-off, so their incentive for victory is not as strong as it is for their hosts.
Reading, by contrast, can move out of the bottom three if they better either Cardiff or Huddersfield’s result at Watford or Sunderland respectively, or if they win and QPR fail to do so against Norwich: it’s a huge incentive for a side rejuvenated under Hunt’s leadership.
It could be a tight game of few goals, so the Double Chance: Reading/Draw and Under 2.5 goals can be backed at 2/1, while no goalscorer is available at 7/1.
Double Chance: Reading/Draw and Under 2.5 goals @ 2/1 with Bet365
No goalscorer @ 7/1 with Betfred
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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