Are we all sitting uncomfortably? Then I’ll begin,,,
So it has come to this. Less than twelve months after finding themselves just a couple of spot kicks away from a glorious return to the Premier League at Wembley, the Berkshire faithful now find themselves tentatively trudging to the Welsh capital knowing full well that by 3pm Sunday afternoon, they could soon be mapping out visits to to the likes of Accrington Stanley, Doncaster Rovers and (shudder) Oxford United come August.
After a season that has seemingly dragged on for longer than THOSE roadworks by Cow Lane (some transport-based satire for you all there...not why I do it, but thanks), Paul Clement needs to somehow pick his squad up from THAT “shameful” performance against Ipswich and find what currently seems like the unlikeliest of results against the high-flying Bluebirds on Sunday.
Outside of that, Reading will just have to pray that at least one of Fulham, Derby or Preston can do them a favour by beating one of their relegation rivals to ensure another season of second tier football for the Royals.
Form (all comps): WLDLL
In a season of low points, Saturday was undoubtedly a footballing nadir.
For a manager-less, mid-table Ipswich to come to the Mad Stad with nothing to play for and roll over a side supposedly fighting for their Championship survival is sad reflection of the dire straits in which the Reading team currently find themselves.
Mentality and character will be as key a consideration as form and fitness for Paul Clement as the Royals head to the Cardiff City Stadium, meaning that all bets could will be off when it comes to trying to name a starting line up for such a titanic clash.
What we do know is that left-back will be, as it has been all season, a problem. With Tyler Blackett still suspended following his petulant sending off against Sheffield Wednesday and Omar Richards picking up a knock against Ipswich, Tiago Ilori, Chris Gunter or the returning Leandro Bacuna may be called upon to play on the left side of a makeshift back four.
The talismanic Paul McShane could return from a long absence to shore up the defence, with Callum Harriott also pushing for an appearance after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Outside of this, the Royals will be depending on top scorers Mo Barrow and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to conjure up some magic for a side that appeared completely bereft on any attacking flair last Saturday.
Form (all comps): LWWLW
Although the Royals’ fate is ‘technically’ in their hands, there would be fewer fixtures less desirable to Paul Clement than a trip to the Cardiff City Stadium when trying to secure Reading’s Championship survival on the final day.
After losses to Villa, Derby and Wolves, many believed that Neil Warnock’s men may have blown their chance at promotion. However, displaying a gritty determination not too dissimilar to the Reading team of twelve months ago, Cardiff still find themselves in pole position to claim a return to the top flight after a four year absence and will do so as long as they match Fulham’s result at Birmingham.
Yet they will have to do this without the long throws of Icelandic midfielder Aron Gunnarsson on Sunday, who is ruled out through injury. However, ex-Royal Sean Morrison has three goals in as many games, serving as a reminder that the Welsh side possess dangerous options across all areas of the pitch.
We all want to believe that Reading can win, or at least get a point that means only a mathematical miracle for Burton could see Reading condemned to the third tier of English football for the first time since 2002.
However, I was there on Saturday. I saw the performance against Ipswich and have seen enough of Cardiff this season to know that any display remotely similar to that which we saw at the Mad Stad will see us on the wrong end of a thumping.
Given the nature of the occasion, you hope that the boys will step up. However, even if they do, Cardiff’s form and confidence suggest that they will have enough to reach the promised land of the Premier League, and leave Reading fans anxiously waiting on results at St. Andrew’s, Pride Park and Deepdale to confirm their Championship survival.
Cardiff 3-0 Reading