I’ll be honest. When we decided to bring back Promotion Watch a fortnight ago, I thought (hoped) it might last a little longer than three weeks.
But here we are, with Reading’s dream of finishing in the top six well and truly over in every possible way apart from the actual mathematics. A six point gap to sixth-place Barnsley with three games to play is too big to bridge, particularly with fixtures against Swansea and Norwich still to come. The Tykes, on the other hand, have Rotherham and Preston.
It is always the hope that kills you and Barnsley’s 2-0 loss to Coventry last Sunday suddenly gave Reading a way back in through a door that was probably already closed anyway.
Yet on Wednesday the Royals put in a lacklustre performance and drew 0-0 with a Luton side with nothing to play, while Valerien Ismael’s men beat Huddersfield Town 1-0. The dream is properly over this time, and Reading only have themselves to blame.
Whether you consider this season a success or not - and that is a discussion that is likely to continue long into the summer - there is no denying the poor manner in which it has ended.
One win in eight games is pretty unacceptable for a side chasing the top six, but in truth many saw it coming. It has been said for some time how Reading’s run-in would be their undoing.
So let’s wrap a few things up. Norwich City secured promotion to the Premier League last weekend without even playing and have since lost twice in a row, while Watford need one more win to mathematically join them but are almost certainly there already.
Bournemouth look set to be the form team heading into the playoffs as they have won seven on the bounce, setting up the rather depressing possibility that all three relegated teams will go straight back up again.
Brentford and Swansea City are stumbling over the line but will have another shot at the lottery after failing last year and Barnsley are this year’s underdog story having only survived relegation last season in the dying seconds of the campaign.
It puts into context what Reading have been up against in the race for promotion: three relegated teams who have come down when, due to the pandemic, it is perhaps the easiest it has ever been to go straight back up; two of last season’s beaten playoff sides who are also very well run; and a club with a clear strategy and philosophy both on the pitch and behind the scenes.
That will not provide much comfort of course as Reading still had it in their own hands a month ago, but it serves as a reminder of the quality in the Championship this season. Swansea finished sixth last season with 70 points - Barnsley are already on 74 with three games left to play.
Here’s hoping we’ll be discussing those numbers again this time next season and that Promotion Watch makes a rather more successful return.