Nine points off the play-offs
Despite being 10 places off the play-off spots, Reading’s win against Barnsley takes them just nine points away from Derby in 6th which goes to show just how close the Championship is, and has always been. Equally, nine points is also the amount that separates the Royals from the relegation zone.
Whilst they are closer to the bottom of the table in terms of league placing, the fact that it is the same amount of points which is the difference between League One and a potential Premier League place makes this run of games over Christmas and New Year all the more important. A good run of form shoots Jaap Stam’s men up the table and may even rekindle any hopes of sneaking into the play-offs. However, a bad run of form and Reading could fall close to those dreaded bottom three places and may even cost Stam his job.
After some pretty scathing criticism of the way the Royals played on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday where they were barely able to hit the target, let alone score, it was good to see three goals scored by Dave Edwards, Joey van den Berg and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. The potential was there to get even more with Liam Moore and Sone Aluko amongst those who had additional chances, and while it would have been nice to put four or five past Barnsley, a comfortable 3-0 win is just what was needed going into an away fixture against a Sunderland.
Under new manager Chris Coleman, last weekend the Black Cats picked up their first win since August 13th and will be desperate to end their horrendous home form and pick up their first win at the Stadium of Light in 2017. That game will be tougher than it looks on paper.
Second straight clean sheet
After being unable to keep a home clean sheet this season until Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, Reading waited just three days to double that number against Barnsley. Obviously clean sheets are massively important in football and hopefully Reading can build up a better record of not conceding at home, which they seem to now be doing, and that can help the Mad Stad become the fortress all Reading fans want it to be. After all, how important was home form to the Royals every time they have been promoted?
A first win in four
In last weeks Five Things, I mentioned that on paper, Reading’s form did not seem that bad with the only loss in the last five games coming against table toppers Wolves. However, as with most statistics, there is a flip side, and it was massively important for Reading to start converting draws into wins, which they were able to do at Barnsley.
The victory was the Royals’ first set of three points in their last four games. A run of wins is definitely needed to lift some of the pressure at the club and there is not really a fixture in December or January which Reading will find hugely challenging. It will be interesting to see exactly how many points are picked up in those next two months.
We are nearly four months into 2017-18, but these last two games against Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley mark the first time this season that Jaap Stam has named an unchanged XI. To be fair, Reading have been, and continue to be, plagued by injury woes, with Tiago Ilori, Paul McShane, Jordan Obita, John Swift, Yann Kermorgant and Garath McCleary amongst the key players who have battled fitness issues thus far.
However, consistency in selection is extremely important in football for players to understand exactly what their role in the team is as well as allowing them to gel better with their new teammates (massively important considering the Royals added seven new faces over the Summer). Hopefully, the less changes Stam needs to make to the team, the better they will play.