Wise warning for Saints ahead of Reading test

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The veteran midfielder Dennis Wise is gearing his Southampton team-mates up for a very different challenge against Championship high-fliers Reading tonight.

Saints' tough home fixture is one of only three in the Championship, with the third-placed Watford harbouring high hopes of three points at Coventry while Leeds and Derby have the opportunity at Elland Road to haul themselves above mid-table.

Southampton were held to a goalless stalemate on Saturday at the St Mary's Stadium by a Plymouth team Wise rated as largely unambitious. But the Royals, defeated only once in the league from 10 outings this season and currently the club chasing the runaway leaders Sheffield United the hardest, should present an altogether more enterprising proposition.

The former England workhorse Wise is hoping for a more open game this time. "I hope Reading will come here and play," the 38-year-old said. "I don't think they will sit back and try to frustrate us, as some teams have done."

While Saints have made only an adequate start to their first campaign outside the top flight for nearly 30 years, Reading have exceeded expectations so far. Wise is well aware of how much the three points will mean to each side. "This is a big game for us, because Reading are doing extremely well, and it would be a big bonus for us if we can beat them," he said.

The Plymouth experience leaves Southampton with a little ground to make up. "Saturday was disappointing, but Plymouth set their stall out and knew exactly what they wanted to do," Wise said. "They were chuffed to bits with a draw. We dominated the game and created a few chances - but we should have finished them."

Wise accepts that it is difficult to break down any side if they have set their sights on a draw, although he is confident that Saints will prove a cut above in time.

"Teams will come here and make it difficult for us, and we have to be patient and break them down. But it will change. We can't keep playing well and not getting the result. We have drawn the last five and should have won all of them."