Reading FC's Connolly seeking a clean sweep
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Matthew Connolly, right, in action against Middlesbrough.
CLEAN sheet specialist Matthew Connolly believes Reading can reach the end of the Championship season without conceding another goal.
The on-loan Queens Park Rangers defender is yet to let in a goal since arriving from Loftus Road in the January transfer window.
Royals have gone 474 minutes without conceding and are on a sensational run of five straight wins and clean sheets, with Connolly playing in four of them.
The last person to breach the Royals defence was Hull City's Robbie Brady in a 1-0 defeat at the Madejski Stadium on January 21.
The goal itself was controversial as Aaron McLean was clearly offside in the build-up, but was adjudged not to have interfered with play.
Since then Brian McDermott's men have notched up successive victories over Bristol City, Coventry City, Derby County, Burnley and Middlesbrough, all to nil.
It has propelled them up to third in the table and a mere four points off the top two sides, Southampton and West Ham, with 14 games remaining.
And Connolly, 24, declared: "That's five clean sheets in a row now and I've played in four of those games.
"Obviously if you had offered me that from the start I would have taken it. Now I just want to keep playing and winning.
"I'd like the run to go on for another 14 games if I'm honest. We'll have to see because someone will eventually score against us, but at the moment we don't look like conceding.
"Adam Federici has been brilliant in goal and made some crucial saves at the right times. The main thing is to try and stay as solid possible and whatever happens, happens. But the longer the run goes on the more determined we are to keep the ball out of the net."
Royals have let in 27 goals in 32 games, the second-best defensive record in the division behind Hull City. But no-one can match their 15 clean sheets, the most recent coming at the Riverside last Saturday when Noel Hunt and Ian Harte scored in a 2-0 victory.
"Before every game we always aim to keep a clean sheet because we have strikers who can score," stated Connolly. "Middlesbrough didn't really have any clear chances last Saturday and I thought we defended really well. The longer the game went on I knew they weren't going to score.
"We're really confident in our ability to keep clean sheets at the moment so hopefully we can keep that going."
Softly-spoken Connolly was struck by stagefright when asked to perform a song in front of the Royals' squad, as is customary for new players making their first-team debuts.
But he has looked a star performer on the pitch, albeit at right-back instead of his normal position in central defence.
And he believes the capture of his former QPR team-mate Kaspars Gorkss for around £900,000 was a brilliant piece of business by McDermott.
Gorkss was the mainstay of a Rangers side that won the Championship title last season and Connolly added: "Kaspars is a great player and when he joined Reading I thought it was a tremendous signing.
"He's a really solid player, he proved that last season at QPR and he's doing it again. I think having Kaspars next to him has helped Alex Pearce as well."
Reading go looking for their sixth win and clean sheet this Saturday when they visit Millwall's New Den. Though Kenny Jackett's men won at Burnley last weekend, they haven't won at home in the league since Boxing Day.
And for Ex-Arsenal trainee Connolly, it will be a new experience. "I've never played at Millwall before," he said. "I was suspended for the QPR game last season but away games are always difficult.
"I know it can be quite hostile there but we've been solid in the last two away games and we will look forward to it.
"We're probably favourites on paper but Millwall have just gone away to Burnley and won 3-1 which was a great result. They'll be on a high and it will be up to us to match them."