Thursday's defeat to QPR was largely considered an upset based on the relative league placings of the two sides but if you look back at Reading's recent record in mid-week games, it really shouldn't have come as much of a shock. For the past three seasons the club have been woeful in league games not kicking off at the weekend, to the extent that based on points-per-game earned over those campaigns, we'd be on track for just 35 points, a total that would almost certainly end in relegation.
Of course the overall pains of the past two seasons can't be ignored as a contributing factor to the awfulness, but even so the gap between weekend performance and midweek performance is stark even during this strong season from Stam.
Here's a breakdown of our record in midweek league games, excluding those played over the festive periods.
Wow... that really is awful. A total of just seven wins in three seasons is atrocious and when you consider that the opponents during those wins have been Ipswich & Rotherham twice each, Millwall, a then struggling Brighton and Bolton it makes for even more painful reading.
Compare that to the record the rest of the time, which reads as follows.
So as you can see, our points-per-game doubles for games played during the weekend and over Christmas.
Wednesday & Thursday Woe
For some reason, Wednesdays and Thursdays have been particularly toxic for the Royals in these last three seasons. Seven times we've played non-festive fixtures on those days of the week and not one of them has ended with a win. Thursday's defeat was the second consecutive Thursday night that we've lost 1-0 to the 'Fake Hoops' with our only positive results on Wednesdays coming appropriately at Sheffield Wednesday last season and a 0-0 draw with Leeds early in the 2014/15 campaign.
So Why Are We So Bad?
Good question, and it's one I'm sure Jaap Stam is begging to answer. Taking a glance through the schedule, you can't say that it's been a particularly brutal set of opponents this season. Newcastle (2nd) and Leeds (5th) have been the hardest but we've failed to beat Aston Villa (12th), Birmingham (13th), Brentford (14th) and QPR (15th) with our lone win coming in the last minute against 16th placed Ipswich.
Could travel be an issue? The league's policy of scheduling long trips for midweek games to maximise weekend away attendance could certainly be seen as a factor. Reading haven't won a non-festive away game in midweek since beating Leeds 4-2 in March 2014 but in the past three years we've been to Huddersfield three times, Leeds twice, Rotherham twice, Middlesbrough, Bolton, Blackpool, Hull, Newcastle and Derby. Yet we can't even use travel as a real excuse given we also lost twice at Bournemouth, and in games at Cardiff and Brentford, while also failing to win at Millwall.
You could also point to the fact that many defeats in the past few seasons have come in between big cup ties, or when the season was 'dead' but that still fails to explain this season's midweek struggles.
Overall I'm left scratching my head as I just can't put a finger on why we seem to be so bad during the week. All of the factors above could be playing a part but is there enough of a pattern to call it a problem or is this just a big strange coincidence? I'll leave that for you to decide but I think a three-season pattern points to something, albeit possibly minor that needs to change about our midweek adventures.
So what do you think lies behind our midweek struggles? Let us know in the comments below.