I don’t know about you, but I’m finding myself distracted these last few days thinking about how the next few weekends will pan out. Reading FC’s return to the third tier is the closest it’s been since 1998.
We all know the Royals simply need to get points on the board and hope results elsewhere go our way to ease pressure. So, let’s break it down.
Coventry City away: Given RFC’s away form and the fact the Sky Blues are chasing a play-off spot, winning here feels unlikely, so a draw would be brilliant! This weekend is our best chance to leapfrog QPR and from then on, our fate would really be in our own hands. Defeat wouldn’t necessarily be disastrous, especially if other scores are favourable.
Wigan Athletic at the SCL: Arguably a bigger match than when we played the Latics here in the 2001 play-off semi-final. We simply must win this game. The same may well go for Wigan, although they could be playing “without the shackles” should their fate be sorted beforehand. In which case, get everything crossed!
Huddersfield Town, the final showdown: We don’t know what will be required on the final day. All being well, a draw against Warnock’s Terriers will hopefully be enough if we’ve gotten at least four points in the bag beforehand. Hope.
Now the others.
Wigan Athletic and Blackpool – Doomed hunters?
The Latics and Tangerines can’t afford their gap with QPR and Huddersfield to widen. They must better their results and hope for favours. Both Lancashire clubs could be relegated (or as good as) before the Latics travel to the SCL next week. It’s that close.
Blackpool can survive a few more days but both play Millwall – Wigan this weekend and Blackpool next Friday. That’s a Millwall side looking to cement their play-off spot. I think we can write these guys off.
QPR – the ones to watch and just a point ahead
QPR’s form is an absolute disaster and could keep Reading in the Championship. The Rs have only won two games since the World Cup. They are however that crucial point ahead.
First is a trip to Burnley who will be looking to win the title – hopefully we can expect a favour here, BUT we still need to make up that point and then it could come down to goal difference, as foolhardy as that sounds.
However, QPR have arguably the easiest last two games within the relegation pack: Stoke City away and Bristol City at home. Both are safe and their results show sides just seeing out the season - and that’s worrying. Hopefully Stoke will want to put in a good show for their last home game, but if it all comes down to the final day, our fate rests with a Bristol City side potentially dreaming of their holidays…
Given their form, I can’t see QPR getting more than four points from their remaining games. Are they really that bad? We might have to hope so.
Huddersfield Town – also one point ahead and on the back foot
Interestingly the Terriers aren’t playing this weekend as their would-be opponents Sheffield United are at Wembley. Missing a round of fixtures could work to our advantage as Huddersfield will be powerless to events. It also means they’re fitting in an extra game and will be less rested for that final clash with us.
If Reading or QPR pick up points this weekend, Warnock’s men could impotently fall into the drop zone. Huge psychologically.
Then comes a trip to Cardiff, who will also be wanting to secure safety and so perhaps here they’ll cancel each other out. Results could also have next opponents Sheffield United wanting to secure their promotion in the week building up to the final round of fixtures. Local derby or not, this could be academic.
There’s real potential Reading arrive at Huddersfield with the upper hand as I think the Terriers will only amass a single point by the final day. That means our last game becomes a shootout, hopefully for QPR and Huddersfield if we’ve done enough already. Yikes!
Cardiff City and Rotherham United – masters of disaster?
The safest of the relegation pack, but only if they get off to great starts this weekend. Incidentally they also have an extra game next week, playing each other after having their match “rained off” a few weeks back. Let’s scrub that as a draw.
This weekend however, they each play safe and sliding sides like Stoke City - in Cardiff’s case, while Rotherham go to Bristol City. If they win these they’re probably as good as home followed, by that probable draw between themselves.
Muck that up however, and they’re in trouble.
Rotherham host Middlesbrough who will likely be trying to sort out their play-off spot. Good luck there. They’ll then go to Wigan who might (by this stage) fancy going out of the Championship in style and potentially send Rotherham down if they haven’t done enough by this stage.
Cardiff might have produced wins against Blackpool and Watford recently but both clubs are in disarray, and this could well be a false dawn. As I said earlier, Huddersfield will go to Cardiff looking for something. Again, if Cardiff haven’t done what’s needed by May, they have the hugely unenviable task of upsetting Burnley’s trophy party on the final day. That could leave many in South Wales checking scores come May 8.
Anything can happen and, faced against these possible scenarios, you can only rate Reading’s chances. Maybe it’s not quite as gloomy as we think?