Points Win Prizes
Reading stormed back into third place on Saturday and the omens increasingly favour us to be in that play-off lottery.
For at least the last nine seasons, the team third after 28 games has finished inside the top six, so we'd have to do something memorably bad to miss out from this stage. 75 points will get you into the play-offs more often than not and that leaves 23 points to get from 18 games, with eight still to come at the Madejski.
Win six and draw five and that's job done.
Of course we shouldn't completely count our chickens and records are there to be broken but logically we should now be expecting a play-off place rather than merely hoping to get one. Speaking of hope.....
Hoping For Moore
Liam Moore has rightly enjoyed near universal praise since joining the club in August, but January has been a pretty miserable month for the defender. Saturday's win was the second successive game he's given away a penalty and when you throw in key mistakes against Manchester United and another at Derby, I'm sure Liam will be happy to see the word February pop up on his phone.
According to Squawka, the centre back has only managed one positive performance in his past four league games, with his 22.6 rating against QPR sandwiched between -4.77 at Bristol City, -12.55 at home to Fulham and an alarming -30.7 this past weekend. To put that into context, Moore only registered three negative performances in the previous 18 games and one of those was just scraping the minus range at -0.04 in the humping at Brentford.
So what's behind his slump in form?
The chopping and changing in the back five/six probably hasn't helped things. Only Ali Al-Habsi, Chris Gunter and Moore have been mainstays throughout the month, with Joey van den Berg, Tyler Blackett, Paul McShane Tiago Ilori and Jordan Obita all in and out of the side. Likewise, the defence as a whole have been inconsistent, with just one clean sheet in the past 12 games. Moore hasn't been the worst offender either, with Blackett (-24.47) and Obita (-21.43) both averaging far worse in January than Liam's -6.54.
Every player is going to have their ups and downs but with injuries mounting, we could do with Moore snapping out of this slump sooner rather than later.
The Final Third Remains A Concern
Six points is six points and it doesn't matter how we got them, they're ours. Yet you couldn't help but watch this week's action and wonder just what Reading might be capable of with another established option in the final third. Too often moves seem to be breaking down when we get around the box and this failure to finish off bright openings could come back and haunt us, just as it did up at Pride Park and at home to QPR.
Stam lacked the personnel to really scare Cardiff going forward and a quick look at the heat map via WhoScored.com shows how little we actually penetrated a City area that was often packed with seven or eight red shirts. (Reading are on the left)
The addition of Adrian Popa should provide a bit of a spark but you worry about Stam having to go through these key months with only Yann Kermorgant as a recognised central striker. Joseph Mendes, Dom Samuel and Yakou Meite have all shown flashes of ability and might well step up, but the odds aren't in favour of such an outcome and you really hope there's some final pennies in the coffers to bring in another Championship ready forward, even on loan.
Goals From All Areas
While that final third does remain a worry, whats been pleasing is how goals are coming from a wide variety of players this season.
To date, 13 different players have grabbed Championship goals this season, with Kermorgant (8), Garath McCleary (8), Roy Beerens (5) and John Swift (5) all hitting the five goal mark. Last season only Nick Blackman (11), Danny Williams (5) and Orlando Sa (5) reached that number.
You have to go back to our title winning campaign in 2011/12 for the last time more than four Reading players got five or more goals, when seven reached the milestone (bonus points in the comments if you can name them without looking!). Danny Williams is the nearest to adding his name to the group with three goals, while George Evans, Paul McShane and Dom Samuel have two each.
So a Danny Williams double at Birmingham tomorrow night sounds ideal to me ;)
Cardiff Fans Are Pretty Proud Of Wales' Efforts At Euro 2016
The amount of songs, chants and general mockery of England's efforts in France compared to Wales was noticeable from our Welsh visitors this weekend. Fair play to them, it's great to have pride in such a fantastic run, although the irony of Reading having a bigger hand in Wales' success than Cardiff seemed to be lost on those in the South Stand. Oh and doing those Icelandic hand clap chants is always going to set you up to be embarrassed when the opposition score....
Still, it was largely good natured and whatever generated the noise from both sets of spectators, it was a decent atmosphere in the Madejski on Saturday and I hope we'll see attendances gradually increase as we go down the run in.