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Stats Corner: A Travelling Force To Be Reckoned With

Tom explores the numbers behind Reading's away form - the bedrock of the revival under Mark Bowen.

Nottingham Forest v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - City Ground Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

Reading’s surprisingly good away form is no longer a well-kept secret, with Saturday’s triumph over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough putting it firmly in fans' focus. Just two defeats in all competitions on the road for Mark Bowen has been the bedrock of Reading’s improvement and gradual climb up the table since he took over from Jose Gomes in October. But just how good is it in comparison to both other Championship clubs and Reading teams of recent seasons?

To get all boring and overly statistical, I’ve broken down the numbers. Since Bowen took charge, Reading have played 11 Championship away games, winning four, drawing five and losing two. In the process they’ve won 17 points, scored 15 times and conceded just 10 goals, combined with three clean sheets. Those numbers mean nothing though without being compared to something, so I’ll start by comparing other Championship teams in this period.

Only three sides have taken more points than Reading in their last 11 away games: West Bromwich Albion on 24, Leeds on 19 and Brentford on 18. Our proximity to the first two teams (first and second in the Championship) shows just how high this Reading side could be punching in the league this season had we only been as successful at home.

Sadly, that’s far from the case as discussed on the latest podcast, with Reading one of just four Championship teams (West Brom, Bristol City and Hull City are the other three) who have more points per game away than on home soil this season. Plus, when you look at the away record table for the whole season, Reading are eighth with the sixth-best overall goal difference. That’s including the first six away games, in which Jose Gomes’ side picked up just five points.

The teams that Reading have won points off on the road this season are also impressive. Draws at West Brom and Nottingham Forest, wins at Fulham and Preston North End and just a 1-0 defeat to Brentford means that when we play the last of the current playoff teams in Leeds United on Saturday, we should do so with plenty of confidence.

Other Reading seasons

In these last 11 games alone, Reading have already matched in points what last year's team managed in a whole season (17), winning two more games and scoring only five fewer goals. And remember, that’s in less than half the games too.

In 2017/18, Reading’s total away points for the season were just 22 - the amount already won by the current Reading team this season as a whole. In fact, that’s the funny thing - Reading’s away record wasn’t particularly bad under Gomes this season either: three defeats by just one goal, then two draws and one win. Unspectacular but also fairly average.

When combined with Bowen’s record, it means that Reading could be on course for one of their best away records in recent seasons. You can see the full away records of Reading in the Championship below:

  • 2018/19 - 17 points
  • 2017/18 - 22 points
  • 2016/17 - 32 points
  • 2015/16 - 19 points
  • 2014/15 - 21 points
  • 2013/14 - 37 points (4th best in division)
  • 2011/12 - 42 points (2nd best in division)

Only 10 more points from our remaining six away fixtures would level Reading’s record under Jaap Stam’s playoff final season of 2016/17, which is doable, especially if we get another positive result at Elland Road this Saturday.

What this improved record is indicative of, though, is what we already know all too well - that Reading have been awful for four of the last five seasons. It’s hardly surprising that our away records were so terrible in these seasons; that comes with being a bottom-third Championship team. However, if this campaign's away record can be maintained into next season as well as restoring our home form, then it’s certainly a promising sign that we could challenge at the right end of the table.