Reading v Leeds United: Neil fires warning to strikers

Edgar Cani, right
Edgar Cani, right
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NEIL Redfearn has thrown down the gauntlet to Leeds United’s striking department ahead of tonight’s Championship clash at Reading.

United suffered frustration, not just with referee Graham Salisbury but also in front of goal in Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Brentford with Redfearn’s 20th-placed side having netted just five times in open play in 10 league matches since the start of December.

In that spell, just two goals have arrived from forwards in open play, with Billy Sharp netting a late winner at Huddersfield Town on January 31 and Mirco Antenucci scoring in United’s 4-1 loss at Ipswich Town.

It represents an area of some concern for Redfearn, who says that a winger remains on his wish-list in the emergency loan window which is now open for business – and possibly a striker if things don’t change.

Meanwhile, recent signing Edgar Cani insists that he is ready for the first-team call after coming on from the bench late on against the Bees, with Redfearn pondering several selection dilemmas ahead of this evening’s clash with the Royals (8pm).

Redfearn said: “We would like to bring players in, obviously, with Championship experience. It is common knowledge we are looking for wide players and we (also) need to start scoring goals, simple as that.

“That can’t be overlooked as well. Obviously, we will have to see what materialises.

“We have to look at everything and anything. We have got to look at the stuff that has worked for us and persevere with the lads who have done well.”

The likes of Alex Mowatt and Antenucci are pushing for starts this evening, with Redfearn confirming he is likely to stick with Sol Bamba in the heart of the back four despite Giuseppe Bellusci being available again after a two-match ban.

The main decisions surround his offensive formation, with deadline day signing Cani, after his late cameo against Brentford, ready for the first-call if selected.

Cani, who has joined for the rest of the season from Serie B side Catania, said: “It’s a decision for the coach. But I am ready to come in and play as well as I can.

“I hope to come in as soon as possible.”

Redfearn will assess several players who were carrying knocks following the weekend game ahead of the clash against the in-form Royals.

While Leeds have yet to win at the Madejski Stadium in five previous visits, Redfearn says his squad can be buoyed by their two performances on the road at Huddersfield and Bolton, which have yielded four points from a possible six and he is detecting signs of consistency on Leeds’ travels – at long last.

He said: “The biggest thing is the turnaround for the players and if you have niggles or injuries, then obviously you will have to bear that in mind.

“We will take a big squad and we have want to keep them all together, that’s important.

“We have got one or two niggles and knocks and that might figure into it. We will have to see how that is.

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“You get to this time of the season and you do pick up niggles, knocks and bumps and it is up to the people who do come in to pick up the reins and play well; like the lads have done to stay in the side.”

On tonight’s challenge, he added: “It’s a tough game, but our away form has picked up a little bit and we are playing a bit better and have got a couple of results.

“We have got to go there with confidence.

“We will go there and get a performance and try and get a result.

We are playing well at the moment; we perhaps didn’t play as well on Saturday, but we perhaps did enough to get something. The mood is still upbeat.

“We have got to go down there looking for a win and be solid and difficult to play against and compact. But when we get chance to play, we have got to go and play. We have players who can play and deal with the ball. We have got to go down there and be confident.

“You look to win the game. But if you can’t win, don’t get beat and then move onto the next one. If we go with that mentality between now and the end of the season, we will pick up more points than we will drop.”

Bellusci’s return from suspension may have handed Redfearn a potential selection poser at the back, but Redfearn says that Bamba has earned the right to keep his place after a positive start to his Whites career.

Redfearn added: “Sol is playing well and I thought he played well again on Saturday. He had a great game and debut at Huddersfield, so Sol’s in. Obviously, it is what you do around it. There’s one or two things we have got to look at and we will finalise the side when we get down there.”