Michael Morrison hopes the Royals can back up a string of impressive performances and maintain pressure on the division’s top two with another three points when we travel to the bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City on Saturday.
The defender and stand-in captain knows that the Potters will offer another stern test but wants his side to look beyond the ‘basecamp’ of the play-offs and set their sights on the summit, with seven games in 21 days on the horizon in another busy month for Veljko Paunović’s men.
He said: “Stoke are a hard-working team. They’re very organised, have a good shape about them and haven’t conceded too many goals. They have got good attacking threats, Fletcher who’s back fit for them is a real focal point in their attack, and we’ll need to watch him from crosses, which they like to do.
“We’ve got great morale; we’ve had some really good results, and everyone seems in a good place confidence wise. We want to take that into the game, get the three points and build on what was a terrific performance last week. It was brilliant to win last week and play so well, but it’s about backing that up now with a good performance at the weekend.”
With the group well aware of this being another chance for revenge, after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Stoke back in November, Morrison thinks the team has evolved since then and will come into the fixture a different animal.
“I think we’ve evolved a bit, John Swift coming back into the team has really helped, he’s a brilliant footballer who can create chances and score goals as well. Lucas, Andy and Yakou are all back fit too and I think training is really pushing everyone to be at their absolute maximum, and they know if they want to stay in the team that they have to keep performing, and results have been dictated by what we’ve done on the training ground.”
Morrison has been the most senior member and leader of a youthful back line since Liam Moore’s omission through injury, and he credits the club’s academy for producing the likes of Tom McIntyre, Omar Richards and Tom Holmes who consistently perform at the highest level.
He said: “They’re great lads and always want to listen and take everything on board. It’s a real credit to the academy to have not only them three in the team but the other lads who have come through the youth system. It can be difficult for young defenders, but they have performed consistently well and done tremendously, so hopefully they can continue that form and be pivotal for us as we head towards the last few games.
On captaining the side, the 32-year-old added: “I think everyone is looking forward to having Liam back, it’s been an unfortunate time for him with his injuries. But I’ve really enjoyed leading the team and that’s been something that I’m proud of, I hope I’ve done a good job and led by example and I hope to continue to do that.
“We know where we are in the league and we want to push higher than that. Being in the play-offs is kind of basecamp where we want to stay, but from there we want to try and push on and look for those automatic promotion places. Obviously, we’ve got a big game next week against Brentford which will be a difficult one, but if we can go into that on the back of three points from a difficult place to go, we’ll be feeling really good about ourselves.”