Reading FC's Kelly expecting tough battle at Britannia

Published: 8 Feb 2013 07:300 comments

STEPHEN Kelly expects Reading's defence to come under bombardment at the Britannia Stadium this Saturday.

Stephen Kelly in action for Reading FC.

Stephen Kelly in action for Reading FC.

Rejuvenated Royals travel to the Potteries this weekend looking to stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to an impressive seven matches.

But to do so they will have to overcome a notoriously physical Stoke City side at a partisan Britannia.

Tony Pulis' men boast an outstanding home record and their 4-0 humbling by Chelsea last month remains their one and only Premier League defeat there this season.

That, though, comes as no surprise to right-back Kelly who spent three month on loan at Stoke in 2009 from Birmingham City before signing for Fulham.

The 29-year-old warned: "I'll know what to expect at the Britannia on Saturday. I've played there a good few times and obviously I was there for a few months as a player.

"It's a good club and Tony Pulis always has his teams extremely well set up. His players know exactly what they're doing on the pitch, how they're going to play and they play to those strengths. We've got to look out for that and cope wit the pressure on the day."

Stoke are sure to rely heavily on their aerial threat with Peter Crouch and Jon Walters likely to start up front and centre-backs Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth in defence.

Royals boss Brian McDermott will counter that by deploying Pavel Pogrebnyak as a lone striker again before unleashing free-scoring Adam Le Fondre from the bench late on.

Le Fondre scored the last-gasp penalty at the Madejski Stadium to salvage a 1-1 draw for Royals when the sides met on the opening day of the Premier League campaign.

"I think everyone knows what to expect when they go to the Britannia so it's just a matter of us being up for the fight," added Kelly. "If we can hold them off, deal with their long balls and the presence they have up front we hope we can stay in the game.

"If we can do that, we will then look to cause Stoke some problems ourselves."

Kelly had played only two Premier League games for Fulham this season before signing for Reading on a two-and-a-half year deal last month.

But he is yet to taste defeat in a Royals shirt, picking up three wins a draw in four matches.

"I've played at this standard for a while and sometimes you need to put your foot on the ball, relax and take a breath," he suggested.

"Hopefully I can continue doing what I'm doing, give the lads some information and encouragement and keep this run going until the end of the season."

Like fellow Royals full-back Ian Harte, Kelly was overlooked by Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni for their friendly against Poland in his home city of Dublin last night (Wednesday).

However, unlike Harte, it was Kelly's own choice following consultation with his international boss. "I spoke to the manager last week and I think he was looking to give a few of the younger lads caps, which I said was fine," Kelly explained.

"I stayed behind and it will be nice to take it easy this week and look forward to Saturday. I hadn't played much this season before coming to Reading so for me it's been nice to play three Premier League games in a row and feel good about it afterwards."

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