McDermott closer to finalising his Reading FC line-upBy Jonny Fordham
August 08, 2012
The cards have been shuffled all summer, but last night Brian McDermott revealed his hand.
Naming his strongest available starting line-up to face Brighton in their 1-1 draw, the Reading manager picked what could be his side to face Stoke City when the Premier League season kicks off a week on Saturday.
Midfielder Jem Karacan travelled with the development squad to face Hemel Hempstead and played 45 minutes there, so Mikele Leigertwood and Danny Guthrie were given more game time to develop their blossoming partnership.
Karacan faces an uphill battle if he is to break into the side after his surprise return from a broken ankle in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth.
Another injury victim, Jimmy Kebe has already been ruled out for the big kick-off with a hamstring tear.
Garath McCleary, who picked up an ankle injury in Portugal, is being eased back to fitness and he will be preferred to Hal Robson-Kanu as Kebe’s natural replacement as long as he can prove his fitness in the next 10 days.
But Robson-Kanu, who scored a late header to cancel out Vicente's first-half penalty, now has two goals in his last two friendlies.
"It was a good game and I was really pleased we got something from it," said McDermott.
"We deserved it for the second half. In the first half we were a bit too nice, we didn't press as well as we would have liked.
"But after the break we did that, upped the tempo and got crosses into the box, created chances.
"We had opportunities, we possibly could have won it and they didn't really have anything clear in the second half, but Gus Poyet has put together a good side here and I am sure they will do well in the Championship.
Up front Pavel Pogrebnyak is sure to start for Royals - and with Jason Roberts suspended - last season’s top-scorer Adam Le Fondre has stolen a march on Noel Hunt to link up with the powerful Russian.
However, Pogrebnyak, who came close to breaking the deadlock at Brighton with a neat shot on the turn, only to be denied by Michel Kuipers, is still feeling is way into the side and his link-up play with Le Fondre still needs some fine-tuning.
At the back, there are no surprises.
Goalkeeper Adam Federici, who kept 20 clean sheets in the Championship-winning year, is in familiar territory.
In front of the Australia international Shaun Cummings, Alex Pearce, Kaspars Gorkss and Ian Harte all look likely to be given the chance to continue their defensive dominance into the top-flight.
It was Cummings who broke down the right and linked up with McCleary and Hunt in the build-up to Robson-Kanu's leveler and the young full-back certainly looks up for the fight to keep hold of his place ahead of the returning Chris Gunter.
"Hal is part of a great group of players, and whatever team we put out for Stoke, everyone will be supporting each other," added McDermott.
"We have 38 games plus the cup, a lot of matches, and I've got two players for each position which is what I wanted.
"I was delighted for Hal, he came on on Saturday and did really well, and tonight he got a goal that got us a result."