Brian McDermott always preaches about keeping focussed and never looking past the next game. Whilst it does not make for a very exciting interview, it does create a very strong winning mentality; a winning mentality which will prove vital over the next six games. Even Brian could not hold himself from letting out a weary smile of excitement after the win at West Ham on Saturday.
The result was emphatic, the performance not so much, but all that counts is the four point cushion. It truly was the perfect weekend for the Royals, not only did they smack West Ham’s promotion hopes in the face, but Southampton taking a hammering at Blackpool suggests that we have the scent to chase the leaders to the very wire. However, in true Brian fashion, let’s pump the brakes slightly, and remind ourselves of the six games still to be played. There are still a host of potential banana skins waiting, and with Allardyce laying down the gauntlet, suggesting his team need to win all six remaining games, there is pressure on Reading to win at least five of those remaining six in order to guarantee promotion. No easy feat when you consider Southampton and Brighton are two of the fixtures. On our current form though, I would not bet against us going unbeaten till the end of the season, but that is not the ‘McDermott’ in me talking. It would be easy to pin point our tie at St Marys as the crucial game in our run in, but it is Brighton that I fear the most.
Whilst we deserved our Boxing Day win against them, 3-0 was very generous, and they will be looking to make amends in what has to be said was a very poor display on their behalf. Vicente’s return to fitness seems to have revived the team, and is the sort of player that Reading in the past has struggled to contain. Currently holding sixth place (just), Brighton will have everything to play for and everything to lose. Safe to say, running away from with a point in the bag will be a very good result. Our game against Leeds on Friday also poses issues. Not because of the strength of the opposition, Leeds seem to have resigned their playoff push, but because Reading never like to make things easy for themselves. It would be typical of Reading to come away with a victory at Upton Park, in the manner we did so, and then lose to a team which only recently lost 7-3 to Forrest! The game at St Marys will be huge no matter what happens prior to the clash. Both teams will be secretly hoping it will be a showcase of two of the Championship’s best; two teams who virtually have promotion sewn up.
However I feel West Ham will still be hot on the heels of both teams, and the pressure of keeping noses ahead will still be the case. That said, I am confident in beating Southampton. We are so much stronger than when we played them in October, and even then we deserved the victory having outplayed them for large periods of the game.
We have showed all season that we have a very solid temperament for the big games, and will not let pressure phase us. Something that may stem from our defeat to Swansea last year. I don’t know if Southampton can truly say they have the same steel needed to hold their nerves? The way Reading have performed over the past three months suggest we have reason to start dreaming of the Premiership, but in reality we should turn our heads to Leeds, and expect a bumpy ride to the end. It is this mentality that McDermott has instilled into the team that I believe we have such a good chance of not only securing promotion, but securing promotion as champions.