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|
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