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Reading FC Promotion Watch - Matchday 43/46

Another game safely navigated and Reading find themselves in an even better position after picking up three points at Brighton, while West Ham could only manage one against Birmingham. A win for Southampton keeps them top on goal difference but with just four games to go, what do we need to make it back to the Premier League?

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

                 PLD    PTS   GD  GS (MAX PTS)
1.Southampton 42 82 +36 80 94
2.Reading 42 82 +27 63 94
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3.West Ham 42 76 +25 70 88
4.Birmingham 42 70 +25 82
5.Blackpool 42 67 +15 79
6.Cardiff 42 65 +9 77
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7.Brighton 42 63 +6 75
8.Middlesbrough 42 63 0 75
9.Leicester 42 62 +12 74
10.Hull 42 61 1 73

The Maths

Play-Offs

We've made it already and wrapped up the guarantee of playing at home in the second leg by beating Brighton. We also need one more point or for Birmingham to drop any points to secure third place and a meeting with the team in sixth.

Birmingham have a seven point cushion over sixth and that coupled with a vastly superior goal difference should see them join the loser of the automatic race in the play-offs.

Blackpool are well set to join them with a four point lead and a healthy goal difference but there was disappointment for Cardiff, Brighton and Middlesbrough who all slipped up this week, giving hope to ninth placed Leicester and 10th placed Hull who are now just 3 and 4 points adrift of sixth with 12 points to play for.

Automatic Promotion

Reading and Southampton both won so moved up to 82 points, while a draw for West Ham leaves them six points adrift with 12 points left up for grabs

That means Reading need seven points from four games to ensure promotion. Two wins could also be enough if they maintain their goal difference advantage on West Ham, which stands at two. Crucially, West Ham's three goals scored against Birminghm moves them seven ahead in that column so it looks as though they'd take the advantage if goal difference and points are equal.

Reading are also in charge of their own destiny with regard to winning the Championship as by winning all of their remaining four games they will be crowned Champions

Even a draw at St Mary's plus three wins might be enough if Reading can overturn the nine goal advantage the Saints have in goal difference.

The Bookies

After Southampton's win at the weekend and West Ham's dropped points, Southampton are massively favoured with the bookies to get promoted, with their promotion odds a best price of 1/20 and as short as 1/25. Reading's odds have gone in again and they are now rated a best price of 1/8 to get promoted, and as short as 1/14. West Ham's promotion odds have drifted out though and you can now get 11/4 on the Hammers getting a top two spot or going up through the play-offs.

In terms of winning the title, Southampton are 4/5 while Reading are now 11/10.

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

For Reading, If Leeds was a battle won then it was against Brighton that we had to feel the full effects of our efforts against Neil Warnock's side as Brian's battered and patched up team scrapped their way to a 1-0 win at the AMEX. I've always felt that that game would be the biggest banana skin of the run-in so to get three points was a fantastic surprise.

Tomorrow's game couldn't be any bigger as we travel to the home of leaders Southampton. Saints have lost just twice at home this season and have been beaten just EIGHT TIMES in their last 68 home league games. The winner will almost certainly secure a place in the top flight, especially Southampton given their advantage in goal difference over the Royals and West Ham.

Even defeat for Reading wouldn't be disastrous as two wins and a draw would still be enough for promotion, even if West Ham win all their remaining games. The Royals host Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace in back-to-back home games, with both opponents having their seasons all but ended after results at the weekend. Then it's a final day trip to Birmingham who could wrap up a play-off place as early as this weekend.

West Ham's late rally to get a point against Birmingham had the sheen taken off it with Reading's win on Tuesday. The Hammers need Reading or Saints to drop six points in their last four and overhaul both team's goal differences to sneak into the top two.

Their mission improbable begins on Saturday at Upton Park against play-off chasing Brighton. Albion's play-off chances were dented by Reading on Tuesday and they'll need no extra incentive to become the latest team to inflict misery on the West Ham faithful who haven't seen a home win in two months.

After that the Hammers have to go to Bristol City who still need points to garentee safety, before a trip to a rejuvinated Leicester who need every point they can get to seal a surprise play-off berth. Hull are the visitors to Upton Park on the last day of the season and are also still in contention for a play-off place.

Southampton bounced back from dropping points against Portsmouth to record a routine 2-0 win at Crystal Palace who in the words of one Palace fan were 'in the waiting room for Ibiza'.

As mentioned the Saints host Reading tomorrow and know a win will give them an almost unassailable position inside the top two.

After Reading, Southampton travel to Peterborough who have shown they can upset anybody but realistically are going through the motions after virtually securing safety a while ago. Then it's onto Middlesbrough who should provide sterner opposition. Tony Mowbray's side are fighting for a play-off spot but an eight game winless run is alarming and they'll need to have picked up at least one win in their two games before Saints to still feel they've got a chance.

On the final Day it's Southampton against Coventry, with the Sky Blues currently four points from safety. Even if Coventry win their next three they could be down by the time they go to St Mary's but Reading and West Ham fans will be hoping that Coventry are still scrapping for a result on April 28th.

Predictions For Match 43

Last week I only predicted one result right, forecasting a win for Southampton, a defeat for West Ham and a loss for Reading. Still I'm happy to have been proved very much wrong by Reading, while West Ham were 5 minutes away from defeat.

Here's how I see the two key games this weekend.

Southampton 1-1 Reading

I've long since predicted that Reading will come out on top in this one but the injuries to Leigertwood and Karacan have weakened us significantly in the one area we'll need to be on top form to win at St Mary's. Even so I think we'll sneak a draw with a late header sending the 3,000 away fans home happy.

West Ham 1-1 Brighton

This game might well depend on what result you see on Friday. If the top two draw then you could  see a deflated Hammers who might well collapse. But a win for either of the top two, especially for Southampton, might give West Ham the push they need to really go at a Brighton side who aren't amazing on the road. Regardless, Brighton will feel slightly hard done by to get nothing from their game with us on Tuesday and I'm hoping that will inspire them to grab a point that would be very welcome in Berkshire and the South Coast.

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.