READING have made a stuttering start to the new year after ending 2011 with a run of six wins in seven games.
hey have lost two of their four league games and were also dumped out of the FA Cup by visiting Stevenage.
But despite dropping out of the play-off spots since the turn of the year the Royals remain optimistic about their prospects of a return to the top flight after three years in the Championship.
Manager Brian McDermott has been handed significant funding by wealthy new owner Anton Zingarevich to strengthen his squad.
He has brought four new players in during the January transfer window as well as being able to secure the services of of highly-rated winger Jimmy Kebe on a new longer-term deal.
Among the new faces at the Madejski Stadium are former Blackburn striker Jason Roberts, who scored the winner on his debut against Bristol City in their last game a fortnight ago, and Derby County midfielder Tomasz Cywka, who has joined the club until the end of the season.
Queens Park Rangers’ 24 year-old defender Matthew Connolly joined the club on loan until the end of the season on deadline day on Tuesday.
Connolly was a regular in the Rangers’ side which boasted the best defence in the league when winning the Championship title last year, but has only started five Premier League games for the London club.
“He can play anywhere in the back-four and we think he is a really good signing,” said the Reading boss.
Connolly, who is reunited with former Rangers’ team-mate Kaspars Gorkss, is hoping to shake off a slight injury problem in time to come into contention for tomorrow’s clash at the Keepmoat Stadium.
“Before (Anton came in) we were bringing in players that we knew were good for the future, now we’ve got players who are proven at (Championship) level,” said McDermott.
“We’re at a different place now and I’ve got to thank Anton for that. We are looking to build a club rather than get to a certain stage and lose two or three big hitters but I’ve been promised by the new owner that’s not the case now.
“There are 18 games to go and lots to play for and player-wise everyone would agree that we ended last month stronger than we started it. We are not playing as well as we’d want to have played (in recent weeks) but the only thing that matters in situations like this is to win.”
McDermott, who took over in January 2010 on a rolling 12-month contract admits that the Royals have not always played the sort of football for which they are renowned this season.
“Are we playing the kind of silky football we want to play? Not yet but it will come over time,” he said this week.
“We are looking to build something here and we need to pass it better.”
Rovers will be looking to build on the battling midweek draw at Hull, but if they are to beat the Royals at home for only the third time in their history, they know they will have to keep a better eye on Simon Church than they did at the Madejski and also show more penetration in attack against a useful-looking back-four and Australian international keeper Adam Federici.
They will also have to win the midfield battle against the likes of the imposing 6ft 2ins Mikele Leigertwood, who lists Sheffield United and QPR among his previous clubs.
One to watch
ADAM Le Fondre, pictured, made his name playing for Rotherham United where his scoring exploits attracted the attention of a number of bigger clubs. The then Rovers’ boss Sean O’Driscoll is known to have run the rule over him prior to his move to Reading. Le Fondre, the Royals’ joint leading scorer with six, scored his first goal for the club when coming off the bench in their 2-0 win over Rovers in September.