News and Views

Royals On Verge Of Play-Off Finish Despite Defeat

26 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Despite Saturday's 2-3 defeat at Nottingham Forest, Reading need just a single point from their final two matches in order to guarantee a play-off position finish. However, even two defeats for Reading is likely to see the Royals finish inside the top six for a shot at promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs.

With Leeds United in seventh place sitting six points behind Reading, the Royals could get away with two defeats if Leeds fail to pick up maximum points in their final two games, or if Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday slip up. Reading are helped by Sheffield Wednesday facing Fulham at home on the final day of the season meaning at least one team will be dropping points before the season wraps up. With Leeds in poor form after four defeats in their last six games, Reading fans could well be celebrating early whatever happens this weekend.

Brighton and Newcastle United have already taken the two automatic promotion places with Brighton on the verge of being crowned as Champions. Meanwhile Huddersfield secured a top six finish with a 1-0 away win at Wolves on Tuesday night. That result leaves the final three play-off positions up for grabs with four teams attempting to claim a place. Reading have a big advantage as they sit in fourth place, points ahead of everyone else. Reading's terrible goal difference means that the safest route is to pick up a point or three this weekend as Wigan visit the Madejski Stadium. If Reading can do that then all other results become irrelevant and Reading can look forward to extending their season with a game spare.

With the play-offs now within easy reach, attention turns to who Reading might face in the play-off semi-finals to judge our chances of another trip to Wembley. As with previous seasons, the Championship's third placed team will face sixth and the fourth placed team will play fifth. It may appear to be a big advantage to finish third, fourth or fifth to get a potentially winnable game over the two legs. Two wins for Reading in the regular season would secure either third or fourth place and would see us almost certainly avoid Huddersfield Town for starters. However, perhaps Huddersfield Town wouldn't be a bad team to face after our games this season and Huddersfield's minor dip in form towards the end of the season. Perhaps it's Fulham we need to avoid who could well finish sixth?

Reading have won at home and lost away at all sides that can finish in the top six - with the exception of Sheffield Wednesday who we managed to pick up the maximum six points from. Against Huddersfield we won 1-0 at home and lost 0-1 away, giving an "aggregate" score of 1-1. Our big 0-5 defeat away at Fulham means they had a better goal difference over the two games with Reading this term. We beat Leeds United 1-0 at home but were defeated 0-2 at their place, again giving Leeds the edge.

At this stage, with all the teams so equally matched and with no stand out contenders, it really does feel that Reading have a one in four chance of winning the play-offs at this stage. If you take a look at how bookmakers rate the likelihood of a Royals promotion you'll find some close odds as you might expect. At the start of March Huddersfield looked like they might catch up the top two before dropping off the pace, and they would have been firm favourites for promotion alongside Brighton and Newcastle. That's no longer the case, and the form table might hold more answers. It could be Sheffield Wednesday that we need to keep a close eye on now after a run of five straight league wins that included victory over Newcastle United. Fulham are also on a good run after four Championship wins in a row.

To give us the best chance of promotion we need to get some momentum going again - starting with a victory over Wigan Athletic on Saturday afternoon. Not only would it secure our play-off finish but it could take us back to third and give the side a huge confidence boost ahead of play-off games with such massive financial significance.

Remaining Games for the Play-off Contenders

Reading (4th, 79 points):

  • 29 April: Wigan Athletic (H)
  • 7 May: Burton Albion (A)

Sheffield Wednesday (5th, 78 points):

  • 29 April: Ipswich Town (A)
  • 7 May: Fulham (H)

Fulham (6th, 76 points):

  • 29 April: Brentford (H)
  • 7 May: Sheffield Wednesday (A)

Leeds United (7th, 73 points):

  • 29 April: Norwich City (H)
  • 7 May: Wigan Athletic (A)

 

Championship Table at: 26 April 2017
  PlHWHDHLHFHAAWADALAFAAGDPOINTS
1Brighton 441732461311562725+3592 (P)
2Newcastle 441435462313453417+4088 (P)
3Huddersfield 441525342310482230+381
4READING441552341692112946+179
5Sheff Wed 44152535208772323+1578
6Fulham 441075443111653824+2776
7Leeds 441435291384102830+1473
8Norwich 441444512255122744+1266

Win Over Rotherham: Things We Learned

20 April 2017
By Alex Bower

Despite a troublesome first half, Reading edged ever closer to the play-offs with a 2-1 win over Rotherham. Tom Adeyemi gave the away side the lead in the opening twenty minutes after Ali Al-Habsi's initial save landed at his feet.

The Royals struggled to make any real breakthrough until the second-half, when substitute Lewis Grabban finished with a sweetly hit volley. Reading completed the turnaround with John Swift tapping in from close range.

Here are some of the talking points from the game.

A Tale Of Two Halves

If there was ever a game to epitomise the saying "a tale of two halves", this would be it. It has already been confirmed that Rotherham will be playing in League One next season, but in the opening spell it was Reading who looked like the team in trouble.

Other than Danny Williams, it looked as if the Reading players had not turned up. The play was lethargic and sadly the Royals were sinking to Rotherham's level. The endless time-wasting from Rotherham keeper Richard O'Donnell certainly was not helping matters but Reading only had themselves to blame for their performance.

The second-half in comparison was a completely different story. Liam Kelly was brought on at half-time in place of Yakou Meite and was the spark that Reading needed. With Rotherham dropping further back as the game went on, the Royals found themselves edging ever closer to finding the equaliser. Thankfully for the home side, goals from Grabban and Swift were enough to spare their blushes.

What A Difference A Goal Makes

Lewis Grabban has not had the best of starts to his Reading career. Fans had high hopes for the striker when he joined on loan from AFC Bournemouth back in January. Sadly he has not lived up to expectation so far; That was until Monday's game.

The striker finally scored his first goal for the club at the weekend - converting a penalty against Aston Villa. It is a well known theory that getting your first goal can often do you the world of good. If his goal against Rotherham is anything to go by, then Grabban is a completely different player to the one we have seen this year.

When Grabban was brought on as a winger, the immediate signs were not promising. However, fast forward to just after the hour mark and any fears subsided. After being picked out at the edge of the area, the striker finished with a powerful volley to level the score.

Reading fans will be hoping that this is only the start of his goalscoring run as he could be a very handy player to have firing if the Royals make the play-offs.

The Future Of Danny Williams

There was one standout player for the Royals, particularly during the first-half, and that was Danny Williams. While the rest of his teammates looked slow and hesitant, the central midfielder was constantly harassing the opposition and running the ball out of the Reading half.

It was the kind of performance that Reading fans have seen many times before from the American and one that they will certainly hope he continues to replicate until the end of the season. The main concern will be his contract status. The midfielder is one of the highest earners at the club and his contract runs out at the end of the season. Despite having talks with the club, Williams will inevitably be waiting to see which division the Royals are playing in next season before committing his future.

While there are some concerns with the consistency of his performances at times, games like Saturday's remind everyone what he is capable of and what he brings to the squad.

What Does Stam See In Beerens?

One player who continues to frustrate me is Roy Beerens. Yes he is capable of scoring exceptional goals, but his overall play and demeanour continue to be a concern.

The winger is a favourite with Jaap Stam but it is difficult from a fan perspective to see what he brings to the team - he does not like to defend, is easily forced off the ball, has recently been lacking an end product and spends a lot of his time floating around without actually offering an outlet.

When he first signed for the club, Beerens was a player that I thought could be a star player for Reading. Instead, he has been the source of much dissatisfaction.

Play-Offs Here We Come?

Reading pushed themselves up to third with their win against Rotherham and subsequently ever closer to a guaranteed place in the play-offs.

In his post-match interview, Jaap Stam commented on the booing from fans at half-time which he felt was directed towards his players. In the same interview he also mentioned how well the team were doing this year in comparison to previous years and subsequently how they did not deserve such a reaction.

Firstly it has to be said (in my opinion) the booing was directed towards the referee and the Rotherham players due to the time-wasting antics and tackles on Danny Williams. Stam does, however, have a point. The Reading team of this year are performing at a vastly higher standard than previous years and subsequently no fan will have been expecting to be so high up the table this year.

Stam has built a team that looks like it will continue to challenge for promotion and Reading fans will continue to enjoy the ride he has taken them on this season.

Reading Eventually Overcome Rotherham To Go Third

17 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

The abysmal away record of already relegated Rotherham suggested this would be a routine home win for the Royals but they were sluggish from the start, and after going behind when Al Habsi spilled the ball from a header to Adeyemi in the nineteenth minute they struggled to break down their lowly opponents. Once again Jaap Stam confounded everyone with his team selection resting Mendes and leaving Kelly on the bench with Grabban after both had starred in a fine away win at Villa two days earlier. The introduction of Kelly at half time brought the missing spark in midfield and allowed Williams, who had fine game, to push forward; and with Meite's right wing berth taken by McCleary normal service was resumed. The stubborn visitors finally succumbed to a brilliant volley from substitute Grabban and an outstanding team goal finished off by Swift. It was vital win but really should have been more comfortable.
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Royals Go To Norwich After Three Straight Wins

07 April 2017
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading travel to Norwich City this weekend after a run of three straight league wins that has made a play-off finish more likely than not. The Royals are now nine points clear of seventh placed Fulham with just six games of the season remaining. Any points at Norwich this weekend will go a long way towards making the play-offs a certainty, especially with home games against Wigan and Rotherham still to come for Reading. After a dip in form, the Royals seem to be coming good at just the right time as the season enters it's final stages. Norwich have been inconsistent all season and mid-table is now looking more likely for them.

The last time the two sides met was on Boxing Day at the Madejski Stadium when Reading were helped by Norwich midfielder Jonny Howson getting sent off shortly after the visitors had equalised to make it 1-1. McCleary stuck home the spot-kick rebound to make it 2-1 before Harriott wrapped up the three points with a late third goal for the Royals.

Harriott will be missing this time as he remains out through injury. Rakels is still yet to make an appearance after returning from injury and may be hoping to get some match action before the season wrap up. Paul McShane and Joey van den Berg may both be back available for selection but Stam may keep Tiago Ilori involved again after he returned from injury during Tuesday night's 3-1 victory over Blackburn. Jordan Obita could also miss out due to minor injury.

Norwich have let in five goals in their last two games, without scoring, and will have a big boost with defenders Mitchell Dijks and Ivo Pinto back in action. Both players have been out due to suspensions which ended after their 0-3 away defeat against Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night. Norwich have suffered with their away form but this promises to be a difficult game for the Royals.

At home Norwich are unbeaten in nine games, which has included some big wins and a 2-2 draw with table toppers Newcastle United. Norwich still have a slim chance of getting in the play-offs but that is looking increasingly unlikely. Should Norwich fail to beat Reading their season will effectively be over and caretaker manager Alan Irvine will probably be pleased to hand the reins over.

Recent Meetings With Norwich City

DATE COMPETITION OPPOSITION SCORE REPORT
26 December 2016 Championship Norwich (HOME) W: 3-1 Read report...
28 December 2014 Championship Norwich (HOME) W: 2-1 Read report...
29 November 2014 Championship Norwich (Away) W: 2-1 Read report...
20 April 2013 Premier League Norwich (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
10 November 2012 Premier League Norwich (HOME) D: 0-0 Read report...
12 February 2011 Championship Norwich (Away) L: 1-2 Read report...
13 November 2010 Championship Norwich (HOME) D: 3-3 Read report...
27 April 2009 Championship Norwich (Away) W: 2-0 Read report...
13 December 2008 Championship Norwich (HOME) W: 2-0 Read report...