After Tuesday's defeat at Peterborough it's vital that we get back to winning ways tomorrow against play-off chasing Blackpool at the Madejski Stadium.
Ahead of the game Chris Walker from Up the ‘Pool was kind enough to share his thoughts on how Blackpool's season is going and how he thinks tomorrow's game will go.
How would you sum up your season so far?
It's difficult to say really. We're possibly a little ahead of where I expected us to be before the start of the season, but we've never really appeared to hit full stride and in that sense it has been quite frustrating. We had a pretty average start to the season and a defeat away to local rivals Burnley at the end of October was a real turning point. That day was a genuine low point of the season and talk of play-offs after that game seemed like pie-in-the-sky. However, after that we enjoyed a rather decent run all the way to the middle of February, before having another mini-crisis in the last few weeks.
Our financial accounts from our season in the Premier League were released at the end of February and caused quite a stir when it emerged £11m had been paid to a company owned by the club's majority shareholder Owen Oyston, as well as other payments to Oyston-related companies. It possibly had an effect on the playing staff who can't have been pleased to see the owners take such a huge wedge out of the club when the players had all taken huge wage cuts following relegation while still using training facilities you'd expect to see at a non-league club. At the same time we only took one point from three matches and it looked like our season could end prematurely.
However, the media frenzy that followed has now died down a little and we've regained a little bit of form and confidence with four points from Brighton and Leicester, albeit both at home. With eight games now to go, it would seem like our play-off chances are roughly 50/50. Our next two games look very tough - after our trip to the Madejski we face leaders Southampton at home - but the remaining six matches after that are a little more friendly. In the circumstances - relegation last season, losing our best players, finances being relatively constrained - if we were to get into the play-offs, it would be a fine achievement from Ian Holloway and his players.
You've been in and out of the play-offs most of the season, what's been the reason for the inconsistency?
If I was to single out any one reason, it would be the lack of consistency to the starting line-up. Ian Holloway largely pursued a quantity over quality policy with his summer signings - despite chairman Karl Oyston insisting funds would be there to provide the opposite - and as such there has been a large turnover of players throughout the season. There is an astonishing statistic doings the rounds at the moment that Blackpool have used over 30 different combinations of starting XIs so far this season, and that cannot be helpful in finding any level of consistency.
Only really four players have been mainstays of the side - Matt Gilks, Alex Baptiste, Stephen Crainey and Barry Ferguson - with rotation around that group of four taking place on a regular basis. When we were promoted last time, we had a core of around seven or eight players with the remaining three or four gaps being rotated, but second-guessing Holloway's team selections this season has been nigh-on impossible. It's to be hoped that we can find a winning formula for the run-in and with that will come some consistency to achieve a top six finish.
Holloway keeps being linked with a Premier League job, do you think there's any chance you lose him?
To be honest the rumours have been at a minimum. The most recent one was to link Holloway to Wolves, but even then it's not really been mentioned that much between the odd bit of gossip here and there. There are some who feel that Holloway has perhaps been angling for a summer exit in the way he handled the Oyston £11m story - Holloway at one point suggested fans had no right to be upset at the owners and they shouldn't bother coming to games any more if they don't like it; a viewpoint he has since backtracked on after receiving the first real bout of criticism in his time at Bloomfield Road.
However with things settling down a little, he does appear to have re-focused on the task at hand and there's a fair chance he'll still be here next season, especially if we can repeat our achievement of two seasons ago. There's probably not too many top flight teams that would take a punt on Holloway really - despite trying to play down the 'joker' tag over the last couple of years, he's likely still seen as a bit of a loose cannon by many Premier League chairman and I doubt Holloway would move to another Championship team barring a major fallout with Karl Oyston. Holloway often speaks with regret about how he left Plymouth for Leicester and would not want to be seen as disloyal once more.
Who are you tipping to go up and to go down?
Without meaning to put a jinx on you, I do think it will be Southampton as champions and Reading as runners-up. West Ham are stuttering at the wrong time and Sam Allardyce has previous for throwing away automatic promotion - in his time at Blackpool in the 1995/96 season we were over 10 points clear of 3rd place with a couple of months of the season to go, only to capitulate and then lose 3-2 on aggregate in the play-off semi-final against Bradford, despite winning the first leg away 2-0. Allardyce was promptly sacked after this debacle. West Ham should then be favourites to go up through the play-offs, but in reality it would probably be wide open and I wouldn't like to tip anyone as all are much of a muchness.
At the bottom, Portsmouth looked doomed and I do feel for their fans who are not to blame for the way their club has been so poorly mismanaged down the years. Joining them will likely be Doncaster and probably Coventry, although I would like to see Andy Thorn succeed in what is a very difficult job. If they can get out of it, Bristol City look most vulnerable to drop into League One.
Who are the players Reading should be worried about on Saturday?
Tom Ince is finding his best form again and is a threat from wide areas - his final ball looks to be improving and he could cause problems. Elsewhere the evergreen Kevin Phillips continues to find the back of the net despite his advancing years. Phillips has been a fantastic signing for the club and it is to be hoped he can be convinced to carry on an extra year. At the moment he typically only trains with the squad from Thursday onwards due to living in the Midlands, but his personal training regime at home seems to be working for all parties.
Another man to watch might be new loan signing Stephen Dobbie. Reading fans will be familiar with Dobbie for his part in Swansea's play-off final victory last season, and Dobbie was also with 'Pool on loan two seasons ago when we won at Wembley. Dobbie is therefore aiming for three consecutive play-off final wins and with his talent added into the mix, it does provide Blackpool with another option which might just help in securing a top six spot.
Anyone Blackpool fans are worried about?
Given how we are defending set-pieces at the moment, one major worry is how we handle our former centre back Kaspars Gorkss. Gorkss was a fairly regular scorer in his time at Bloomfield Road and we will need to keep an eye on his threat from corners and free-kicks. Elsewhere it would be a boost if Jason Roberts has to miss out, as he seems to be excelling after dropping down a division.
Really though I'm worried about the quality of the entire Reading side. Your run of form in the last couple of months has been frightening and there are so many dangerous players in the team that singling individuals out is probably unfair. Keeping the likes of McAnuff, Kebe, Karacan, Hunt, etc. quiet will be extremely difficult. Our defending of late has been almost laughable and so I'm expecting a lot of goals.
Anything other than a Reading win would be a huge surprise. The playing surface should suit us, but we've never enjoyed much success at the Madejski and so I'm predicting a 4-2 win for the Royals.
Thanks again to Chris and you can follow him on Twitter @onedavebamber