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Reading FC Promotion Watch - Matchday 42/46

Reading FC

After the 'Battle of the Madejski' on Friday, Reading were briefly top of the Championship and seven points clear of third placed West Ham. Sadly the Hammers destroyed Barnsley at Oakwell but Southampton slipped up at home to Portsmouth to make the run-in that bit more interesting.

So here's the table as it stands on Sunday.

                 PLD    PTS   GD  GS (MAX PTS)
1.Southampton 41 79 +34 78 94
2.Reading 41 79 +26 62 94
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3.West Ham 41 75 +25 67 90
4.Birmingham 41 69 +25 84
5.Blackpool 41 66 +15 81
6.Cardiff 41 64 +9 79
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7.Brighton 41 63 +7 78
8.Middlesbrough 41 63 +1 78
9.Leicester 41 59 +11 74
10.Hull 41 58 0 73

The Maths

Play-Offs

The good news (or bad depending on how you view them..) is that Reading have now mathamatically sealed their place in the play-offs for the fifth time at Championship level.

We can finish no lower than sixth, while we need just one more win to ensure we'd have home advantage in the second leg by virtue of finishing third or fourth.

Birmingham took a big step towards securing their play-off place with a win at Watford and are now 6 points clear of seventh with a vastly superior goal difference. Then it's looking like being two from Blackpool, Cardiff, Brighton, Middlesbrough and Leicester. The Foxes are currently five points back in 9th and I can't see those six+ points back such as Hull, Leeds and Derby having enough to crash the party.

Automatic Promotion

So now just five games to go, with Southampton and Reading tied on 79 points at the top with the Saints holding an eight goal advantage in the goal difference stakes. West Ham are four points back in third on 75 but closed the gap on goal difference to just 1 on the Royals thanks to their 4-0 demolition of Barnsley.

That means Reading still need to win four from their last five games to ensure promotion. three wins and two draws would be good enough to seal at least second if Reading can preserve their superior goal difference.

Reading are also in charge of their own destiny with regard to winning the Championship as by winning all of their remaining five games, Reading would be confirmed as Champions.

However, Southampton's slip-up means that even a draw at St Mary's might be enough if Reading can overturn that eight goal advantage the Saints have in goal difference.

The Bookies

despite dropping points at the weekend, Southampton remain the bookies favourite to go up, though their odds have drifted slightly to 1/7. Reading's odds have gone in and are now rated a 1/6 shot to go up while West Ham's have come back in a little to Evens to make it back to the Premier League one way or the other.

The Fixtures

Here's the remaining fixtures for the top 3, with their league positions in brackets. Home games are in bold

                 Southampton          Reading             West Ham
Monday/Tuesday C Palace (16) Brighton (7) Birmingham (4)
Friday/Saturday Reading (2) Southampton (1) Brighton (7)
April 17 Peterborough (17) Forest (20) Bristol C (21)
April 21 Middlesbrough (8) C Palace (16) Leicester (9)
April 28 Coventry (22) Birmingham (4) Hull (10)

The Leeds game was our toughest of our remaining few home games, at least by league position,  so to get three points there was a big box ticked.  Reading still have to play three games against top seven teams but Birmingham having one foot in the play-offs could render the season finale meaningless from their point of view, while Palace's season is all but over. The one bad point of the weekend was slip-ups for Brighton and Forest meaning both sides will be desperate for points.

Brighton are Tuesday's opponents and are one point outside of the play-off places after a 1-0 defeat up at Burnley. Reading easily saw off Gus Poyet's side in December but they've rallied after a poor Christmas period to give themselves a good chance of entering the play-off lottery.

West Ham's next engagement is a live Sky game with Birmingham at Upton Park on Monday in what promises to be a belter of a game. Birmingham are in fine form away from home and have scored three times in three of their last four away from St Andrews, with the only blip coming in a shock 4-1 reversal at Portsmouth.

After that the Hammers host Brighton before trips against relegation threatened Bristol City and play-off chasers Leicester before a final day of the season meeting with Hull. At the moment it's looking as if both of those last two could well be out of promotion contention by then but lets hope they can win a few to give them something to play for.

Southampton were the biggest losers this weekend by virtue of dropping two points at home to struggling Portsmouth. Saints have just two home games left to play, one of which is against ourselves and the other against a scrappy Coventry side fighting for their lives.

They also have trips to Peterborough and Middlesbrough but first comes a visit to South London and Crystal Palace at 3 o'clock Monday. Saints won the reverse fixture 2-0 at St Mary's but as Palace showed in their cup exploits this season, they're still a dangerous team on their day.

Predictions For Match 42

Crystal Palace 1-3 Southampton

Palace saw any faint hopes of a play-off push disolve in the last couple of weeks with 3 defeats in their last four games. Conceding 3 at home against both Derby and Forest is alarming and if Saints are anywhere near their best they'll easily pick up all three points at Selhurst Park.  Still as Pompy showed on Saturday you can score against Southampton and if the game is level for a long stretch who knows?

West Ham 1-2 Birmingham

Birmingham fans would love to get one over their former owners at Upton Park on Monday. After an up and down season Birmingham have started to kick on in recent weeks and as mentioned, have hit three goals in three of the last four away games. Throw in West Ham's rocky spell at home and I can see Brum doing us a massive favour by edging proceedings at Upton Park.

Brighton 1-0 Reading

For a long time this is the game I've seen Reading having the most problems in. Brighton have lost just three times at home all season and haven't tasted defeat at the AMEX since a 1-0 defeat to Burnley in December.  Throw into the mix our injury problems and I can see us being edged out. Despite that I still think we'll win at Southampton so not to panic.

So how do you see this set of games going? send us a tweet to @thetilehurstend or leave your comments below.

If you'd like to find out how Southampton and West Ham fans are viewing this whole run-in lark, I recommend checking out George Weah's Cousin for Southampton and We Love You West Ham or The Game's Gone Crazy for the Hammers.