News and Views

The Final Five Games

15 April 2021
By Hob Nob Anyone?

With Bournemouth and Barnsley recently leap-frogging the Royals into the play-offs positions, the Royals are now massive outsiders for a top six finish. After being in the top six all season, apart from a single week, the Royals have dropped out right at the wrong time as the season enters its final weeks. There are just five games left to play and Reading are now five points behind both Bournemouth and Barnsley. The reality is Reading look set for another season of Championship football. But is all hope lost? Can we make up the difference?

Although a seventh placed finish now seems most likely, there are enough games to turn things around. However before looking at other teams, we now have to assume we will need to win all our final games. That final run of five games, all cup finals, starts with the visit of Cardiff on Friday evening. Cardiff are just one place behind Reading but are now seven points behind the Royals, and although they can close the gap on Reading, their season is effectively now over. This is a match where Reading are favourites for the three points.

Next up is a visit to Luton on 21 April. Luton are thoroughly mid-table with mixed form and again, we should be favourites for the win. Then things turn difficult. Assuming we manage to win those two games then we could still be in the hunt for sixth place when Swansea visit the Madejski Stadium. Swansea may or may not still have a shout at automatic promotion and this stage. It's a big game and a big ask to win it - but we will have to as next up is a visit to Champions-elect Norwich City.

We can only hope that Norwich have wrapped up their league win by then and taken their foot off the gas. Only one team has won at Carrow Road so far this season.

Reading finish with Huddersfield at home. If we somehow are still in contention on the final day of the season then at least this is a fixture we would hope to win. There is the added complication that Huddersfield may need points still to keep out of the bottom three. Should we get this far, then we can hope Huddersfield are safe and roll over for us to pick up three points.

So it's not impossible but we have to keep winning. Realistically Swansea and Brentford are out of reach, so we need to do at least five points better than either fifth placed Bournemouth or sixth placed Barnsley over five matches. Bournemouth's goal difference is massively superior so we probably need do six points better than the Cherries. But this is where there is a faint glimmer of hope. Bournemouth have to play Norwich away too, but it is their very next game this Saturday. If we can win and Bournemouth lose then we could have closed the game to just two points by this weekend. Bournemouth also play Brentford, who are not yet out of the automatic promotion race.

Barnsley's fixtures are kinder as they are playing Coventry, Huddersfield, and Rotherham who are all in relegation trouble. These teams are equally desperate for points for survival, but Barnsley surely will be picking up plenty of points. Barnsley also have to play Norwich on the last day of the season.

After a season of hope, it is going to be hugely disappointing should we miss out on the top six. However after such a great start to the season we have only really been a mid-table side since then, and so the table doesn't lie. All we can do is hope the team are fired up for one final push and try and finish the season as we started it. If we someone manage to put the wins together then we could still sneak into the top six. Although, we'd only lose in the play-offs anyway...

Final Five Games:

Bournemouth: Norwich (a), Millwall (a), Brentford (h), Wycombe (a), Stoke (h).
Barnsley: Coventry (a), Huddersfield (a), Rotherham (h), Preston (a), Norwich (h).
Reading: Cardiff (h), Luton (a), Swansea (h), Norwich (a), Huddersfield (h).

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