‘It’s going to be gruelling’ says Reading City boss Simon Johnson

Dan Warre. Photo: Peter Toft.
Dan Warre. Photo: Peter Toft.

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Reading City moved into a play-off place in the Combined Counties League Premier Division North when defeating Egham Town 2-1 on Thursday (18th).

Goals from Emil Murasalov and Eddie Lee made it four wins from their last five games, and they leapfrog Berkshire rivals Holyport into fifth place. They won’t, however, be able to climb much higher as title rivals Flackwell Heath and Rayners Lane have drawn well clear of the rest of the field, and Bedfont Sports are close to sealing third spot, but City can overhaul Burnham, who are currently for points above them having played a game more.

Manager Simon Johnson welcomes the league’s introduction of play-offs for the first time this season, saying, “It’s nice to have something to play for right to the wire.”

Reading City, who finished third last season behind Ascot United and Egham, now face five games in seven days – yes, FIVE in SEVEN.

They play Ardley United this Saturday (20th), followed by Burnham on Tuesday, Broadfields United 24 hours later, Hilltop on Thursday and then Edgware & Kingsbury on Saturday, the 27th. And all of them are at Rivermoor Stadium.

“Yes, it is going to be an absolutely gruelling week for us,” says Johnson. Obviously, it is far from ideal, but we will get on with it and see where it takes us.”

Reading City manager Simon Johnson. Photo: Neil Graham.
Reading City manager Simon Johnson. Photo: Neil Graham.

This busiest of all schedules is due to the fact that no home games were possible during January and February as the Thames-side venue was waterlogged following a record-breaking spell of continuous rain.

The water table between the river and the ground rose higher than ever, and even for a short time, access to the ground was hazardous due to Scours Lane being flooded.

Player welfare must be considered when the manager selects his starting 11 each evening, but fortunately, Johnson has plenty of players at his disposal.

He said, “We have a good 20 in the squad to choose from, plus four we signed as backups, so at the moment, we’re in a good position. In fact, we could field two different 11s and still be strong  on
consecutive nights.”

Goalkeeper Charlie York, who has been sidelined by illness, could also be fit enough to play next week.
Like all other leagues at their level, the CCL has not been able to extend the end of the season, although teams will be allowed to play in the first week of May provided promotion and relegation issues are
not involved.

The play-off semi-finals are expected to be played on Tuesday, April 30th with the final the following Saturday.

But that could cause a problem for City as they are due to play Premier Division South side Abbey Rangers in the quarter-finals of the Southern Combination Cup on the 30th at Rivermoor.

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