Luton aim to bounce back
Luton boss Nathan Jones was eager not to dwell on Monday night's 7-0 hammering at the hands of Championship winners Fulham. The Hatters were handed their biggest defeat of the season by a rampant Cottagers side, securing the title in a dazzling display of attacking football, as Town suffered their heaviest loss at this level since November 2019.
Yet the Monday mauling doesn't change the stakes for Jones and his Luton troops, who still know victory against Reading this weekend will secure their place in the top-six, with a draw possibly enough should results elsewhere go their way. And the Hatters chief preferred to invest full focus on their Kenilworth Road clash.
Jones said, "It boils down to one giant, mammoth, unbelievable game and we'd have all taken that at the beginning of the season. So let's look forward to that rather than dwell on a performance that was a poor, as they were good, but we weren't as aggressive as we are, we didn't defend our box as well, and in the end we felt a bit sorry for ourselves."
Jones admitted he will be praying for some 'divine intervention' to help heal his side's ever-deepening injury crisis too. The Hatters, already without a host of first-team players, were hit again on Monday. Allan Campbell pulled out in the warm-up and Fred Onyedinma was forced off the half-hour mark, leaving Town with 10 players on the treatment table.
Reading 'on the beach'?
Reading interim boss Paul Ince said it was just one mistake that cost his side during the 1-0 loss against West Brom last weekend. Karlan Grant's 78th-minute strike separated the two sides at the Select Car Leasing Stadium as the Royals ended their home campaign with a forgettable performance and second successive Championship reverse.
John Swift, Andy Rinomhota, Scott Dann, Femi Azeez, Tom Ince, Tom Holmes and Felipe Araruna are all out injured or ill and won't feature again this season, whilst Andy Yiadom joined the absentee list last week. Terell Thomas was handed a debut at right-back and Ovie Ejaria was brought back into the starting XI, although Reading looked short on quality.
Speaking post-match, Ince said: "It had an end to the season feel about it which is not what you want in your last game at home. I thought we played well. It was a mistake which cost us the three points, that's all it was. We had some good chances in the first half, they had a few shots which were blocked, and the mistake cost us so I can live with that."
Eight of Reading's starting XI against West Brom are out of contract next season and the lack of clarity from the club is bound to have had a negative effect on the Royals' squad after securing Championship survival a fortnight ago.
Luton are looking to complete a league double over Reading for the first time since the 1999/00 season. The Hatters have avoided defeat in five of their last six home encounters with the Royals (W2-D3-L1), whilst Town have won each of their final-day home fixtures at Kenilworth Road since returning to the Football League back in 2014.
Only Nottingham Forest boast a better points return than Luton 1.538/15 since the start of December. The Hatters have claimed W14-D5-L6 in their last 25 Championship fixtures, whilst recording 10 clean sheets along the way. However, Town have also claimed W16-D5-L8 from fixtures against sides outside the top-nine, with 12 of those 16 triumphs to nil.
Reading 7.206/1 posted W8-D3-L11 across their first 22 encounters this term. However, a six-point deduction and a seven-match losing streak saw the Royals nosedive towards the bottom-three. The Berkshire boys were able to stave off the threat of relegation but have been beaten in 13 of 22 away days, and have shipped 86 goals across all venues.
Luton have been involved in a few fun affairs at Kenilworth Road this season. The Hatters' home matches average 2.64 goals per-game with 12/22 (55%) producing Over 2.5 Goals 1.784/5 profit. The majority of heavy lifting has been done by Town with Nathan Jones' outfit posting a hefty 10 (48%) clean sheets in front of their home supporters.
So rather than take a goals-based option, I'm happy instead to support Luton to win and Luton Over 3.5 Corners on the Bet Builder at 1.875/6. The Hatters will play on the front foot and should prove too strong for a Reading side that's already signed off for the summer.
The hosts average 5.05 corners per-game in Bedfordshire, beating the Over 3.5 Corners barrier in 86% of their 22 home tussles this term. Meanwhile, Reading have allowed an average of 5.09 corners per-game as guests, with 78% of their opponents winning a minimum of four flagkicks.
Mark O'Haire says: Back Luton to win and Luton Over 3.5 Corners @ 1.875/6