After two defeats in their first three games, Reading fans were probably beginning to lose the optimism built up by new manager Jaap Stam’s pre-season business.
But the Royals have recovered superbly from their early wobble, and their system, squad and battling spirit all point towards a successful season for the Berkshire outfit.
A large part of that has been down to the way Royals players are developing under Stam. Summer signing from Chelsea John Swift is quickly transforming from a raw young talent to a consummate creative midfielder, and he’s already netted three times this season, including a stunning finish to secure victory at Barnsley last weekend.
Elsewhere, the reliable Garath McCleary has roared into goalscoring form, while the experienced Yann Kermorgant has led the line superbly in a system which seems to suit Stam’s players to a tee.
The Royals’ new system took a few games to click, though they won’t be the last team to suffer a convincing defeat at Newcastle United. But it’s now bearing fruit.
With Kermorgant’s ability to hold the ball up, and the pace and trickery of McCleary and the classy Danny Williams in behind him, opponents have struggled to contend with Reading. Add to that a defence who have conceded just twice in their last four games, and it’s clear that Stam has hit on a winning formula.
But battling spirit has also played its part. Two of the Royals’ last five Championship goals have come beyond the 88-minute mark, and both have been winners, so those betting in-play could find plenty of value in backing Reading wins throughout the season, especially if they’re level in the closing minutes.
Meanwhile, their 2-1 away win at Barnsley saw the Berkshire club play over 50 minutes of the game with 10 men against a side who hadn’t lost a home league game in eight outings before Saturday.
And chances are you won’t get better odds than the current 8/1 for Reading promotion anytime soon. Their next six games include visits to relegation-threatened Rotherham, a leaky QPR side who’ve lost four of their last six games, and Derby County, who have managed a meagre two Championship goals all season.
Really optimistic Royals fans can also back Stam’s men to win the title this year at 40/1 – and as the only side unbeaten in the past five games, that looks well worth a flutter.
Next up for Stam’s side is the visit of Huddersfield. But while the Terriers are currently top of the tree, they lost their last away game at Brighton & Hove Albion and have scored just four times in as many games.
That means Reading look the best shout in the match betting on Saturday at 11/8 for victory, while their knack of late winners means HT: Draw / FT: Reading could be a popular selection at 9/2.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.