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Reading FC Promotion Watch - Matchday 44/46

It's getting close... ever, ever so close. Promotion could come as soon as 9.45pm on Tuesday night... let's let that sink in for just a second. We could be waking up Wednesday morning with Reading in the Premier League.

Brilliant feeling isn't it?

But let's not get too carried away because there's still a lot of work to be done and having come this far we must set out to win every game to make sure we're Champions and not the biggest choke artists the Championship has ever seen.

Here's how the table looks going into Tuesday's games.

                 PLD    PTS   GD  GS (MAX PTS)
1.Reading 43 85 +29 66 94
2.Southampton 43 82 +34 77 91
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3.West Ham 43 79 +31 76 88
4.Birmingham 43 71 +25 80
5.Blackpool 43 68 +15 77
6.Cardiff 43 68 +10 77
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7.Middlesbrough 43 66 +1 75
8.Brighton 43 63 0 72
9.Leicester 43 62 +11 71
10.Hull 43 62 +1 71

The Maths

Play-Offs

We qualified for them a couple of weeks ago now but this weekend's results have ensured we'll finish no lower than third and means that we have at least achieved our fifth highest finish in the club's 141 year history.

Finishing third also ensures we'd play the sixth placed side in the play-offs with the away leg first and the home leg second.

Birmingham have a five point cushion and should join the unlucky loser of the top 3 race, while Blackpool and Cardiff have a two point lead on Middlesbrough. Also in the mix are Leicester, Brighton and Hull but they all saw their hopes severely hit after bad results on the weekend and are now look unlikely to make the end of season lottery.

Automatic Promotion

This is what we all care the most about and Reading took a giant stride towards a place in the top two by winning at Southampton on Friday night and establishing a three-point cushion at the top of the table.

West Ham's win over Brighton on Saturday means that they remain six points adrift of the Royals but their six goal haul means that they now have a two point advantage in goal difference over us.

This means that to guarantee promotion, Reading need four points from their last three games.

Reading will also will be promoted whatever happens if West Ham fail to win at least two of their three remaining games or If Southampton pick up one point or less in their remaining three games.

If points are level it'll be down to goal difference and should that be level then it's goals scored. Both Southampton and West Ham have far superior goals scored records so we'll need to have the better GD should points be level.

The Bookies

SkyBet currently have us as 1/66 to reach the Premier League this season, meaning that a £1,000 bet would net you a profit of around £16... fill your boots. However the best price you can get on the Royals to get promoted is 1/33 with Coral so if you do want to try and 'buy' money they offer the best value.

For the pessimists amongst us you may want to consider 'insurance betting' on West Ham who are 11/10 with the majority of the bookies.

Southampton's odds have drifted out a fair bit and have gone from 1/20 to 2/9 after losing to us and seeing eight goals wiped off their goal difference advantage over West Ham.

Check out the odds for yourself here

In terms of winning the title, Reading are 2/9 favourites ahead of Southampton at 4/1 and West Ham at 50/1.

Remaining 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
Tuesday Peterborough (18) Forest (19) Bristol C (21)
April 21 Middlesbrough (7) C Palace (16) Leicester (9)
April 28 Coventry (22) Birmingham (4) Hull (10)

Reading haven't played a team outside of the top half since March 20th so on paper they'll be happy to have back to back home games against teams that are all but safe from relegation and inhabiting 19th and 16th place. However that last game against bottom half opposition did end in a 3-1 defeat against Peterborough so Brian McDermott will not be taking either Nottingham Forest or Crystal Palace lightly.

The above is especially true as Reading haven't beaten either of their next two opponents, losing at Forest and drawing at Palace so keep the champagne on ice chaps.

If West Ham win and Reading fail to get four points from those two games, Reading will travel to fourth placed Birmingham needing a result to seal promotion. Birmingham should have a play-off spot wrapped up and ahead of an away leg in the play-offs and after a brutally long season, you'd like to think they might be resting one or two... but lets hope it won't matter.

Would the real West Ham please stand up? One minute they're collapsing against Birmingham and the next they're putting six past play-off chasing Brighton. Most pundits had all but written-off the Hammers by half time of their game with Birmingham but two late goals snatched a point in that game and then Saturday's win helped them close the goal difference gap on Southampton to just three goals and leapfrog Reading's GD by two.

Tuesday night sees the Hammers go to Bristol City who hover one place and four points above the relegation zone. After that it's a visit to Leicester who saw their play-off hopes suffer an almost certainly fatal blow by getting beat at Millwall. The final day sees Hull come to Upton Park with the tigers also all but out of the play-off race.

You have to feel a bit for Saints fans who prior to Friday must have thought they were all but dead certs for promotion. The defeat to Reading coupled with West Ham's thumping win have suddenly made things a bit more jittery on the South Coast, as the Saints know they too must earn seven points from their final three to be sure of promotion.

The first of those games comes tomorrow night at Peterborough, which as Royals fans know only too well, isn't an easy game. After that is an even trickier match against play-off chasing Middlesbrough at the ground formerly known as the BT Cellnet Stadium before a final day encounter with relegation candidates Coventry.

Predictions For Match 44

I predicted two draws last week and that's the reason the bookies love to see me walk in the door...

But regardless, here's my predictions for Tuesday

Bristol City 1-4 West Ham

As much as Bristol City are scrapping, the Hammers have been in awesome form away from home all year and that coupled with their return to form on Saturday should ensure a comfortable win for West Ham.

Peterborough 2-3 Southampton

As mentioned, Peterborough are a dangerous side but I still think the Saints will have too much quality in an entertaining game at London Road.

Reading 2-0 Nottingham Forest

As much as the pessimist in me wants to panic and say we'll lose 1-0, the brain tells me this should end in a hard fought 2-0 win. With the season winding down and safety almost assured it would be easy to think that Forest will rollover but with the summer around the corner, Forest's players will want to show the management and prospective new clubs that they can mix it with the best in the league. Despite that, I think we'll still emerge with all three points and set us up for a promotion party against Palace.

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.