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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Reading lacking strikers for West Brom trip

Ins, outs and doubts for this week's fixtures

Reading boss Paul Clement
1 of 1

Injury briefing

Royals reeling from striker shortage
Reading have had a bad week – losing six-goal top scorer Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to a calf injury and sustaining a 1-0 defeat at home to QPR.

Bodvarsson broke down in the pre-match warm-up, forcing manager Paul Clement to deploy Yakou Meite as a lone striker.

Meite struggled – as he has done for most of the season – and Reading were toothless as they lost a key game to a potential relegation rival.

Clement needs to come up with a different strategy but is set to be without Bodvarsson and fellow striker Sam Baldock (calf) for Saturday's trip to West Brom.

Summer signing Mark McNulty (scorer of 23 goals in League Two last term) is waiting in the wings but has started just one league game this season.

Hull have a hole to fill in midfield
Hull are likely to be without two midfielders for the trip to Sheffield United after Jackson Irvine (Achilles) joined Evandro (hamstring) in the treatment room.

Irvine lasted just 27 minutes of the 1-0 loss to Leeds on Tuesday and Evandro hasn't featured since coming on as a late substitute in a 2-1 loss at Hull 16 days ago.

Both would normally be regulars in Nigel Adkins' starting line-up with Evandro offering a creative spark and Irvine an eye for goal.

Rovers returning to full health
Sky Bet League One strugglers Bristol Rovers extended their unbeaten run to four games with a 0-0 draw at Rochdale on Tuesday and their improvement has coincided with the return of key players from injury.

Right-back Joe Partington made his first start of the season in last Saturday's 0-0 draw at Bradford and midfielder Liam Sercombe returned to the starting line-up in midweek.

Sercombe is Rovers' most talented midfield player and his passing range should make a big difference for the Pirates, who have netted just nine goals in 11 league games.

Captain Tom Lockyer missed the midweek match with a head injury and will be monitored before a decision is made on his possible involvement in Saturday's clash at home to Walsall.

Grimsby gain ground against the odds
Grimsby climbed out of the Sky Bet League Two drop zone with a gritty 1-0 success at Carlisle and the victory was achieved against the odds with Mariners' manager Richard Jolley admitting that he had had to make three enforced changes.

Captain John Welsh, right-back Harry Davis and midfielder Jordan Cook were all ruled out with unspecified injuries but Grimsby put in a much-improved performance and ended a run of six straight defeats.

Back-up right-back Reece Hall-Johnson made his first start of the season and has a good chance of keeping his place when Grimsby host Port Vale.

Norwood ban a blow for Tranmere
Tranmere top scorer James Norwood bagged his eighth goal of the season as Micky Mellon's side defeated leaders Lincoln 1-0 at Prenton Park but it was a mixed night for the 28-year-old striker, who picked up a second yellow card in injury-time.

Two thirds of Tranmere's 12 league goals this season have been scored by Norwood and he will be sorely missed when Rovers take on Morecambe this weekend.

Gaffer Tracker
Keith Curle - Northampton 

Curle can set Cobblers straight
Sky Bet League Two strugglers Northampton decided to act this week – axeing manager Dean Austin on Sunday night and replacing him with Keith Curle the next day.

Austin had a positive early impact in the Cobblers' hotseat and almost saved them from the drop as caretaker after Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink's departure last term.

But he has come under pressure this season and his inexperience showed with Northampton collecting just seven points in the first ten games and falling well below lofty expectations.

The Cobblers possess a strong squad who should be capable of flourishing in the fourth tier and Curle, who led Carlisle to the League Two playoffs in 2016-17, looks the right man to get them going.

Northampton made a decent enough start under the new regime, drawing 0-0 at home to Bury on Tuesday.

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Clement needs to come up with a different strategy but is set to be without Bodvarsson and fellow striker Sam Baldock
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