Championship Analysis – Rampant Reading continue promotion surge after victory at West Ham
Reading won the Championship match of the weekend, coming from behind to beat West Ham 4-2 at Upton Park and place promotion firmly into their own hands. The Royals were four points clear of the Hammers in second place this time last weekend, but knew they would be overtaken should their opponents avoid defeat with their game in hand against Peterborough in midweek, and then win this clash itself.
West Ham did the initial job by beating Posh – ironically achieving what Reading hadn’t done at London Road two weeks earlier, where a 3-1 defeat had ended the Royals’ ten-match unbeaten run. But Brian McDermott’s side triumphed on Saturday as the Hammers came unstuck at home yet again, restoring the visitors’ four-point lead in second place and removing West Ham’s long-term grip in the promotion race.
It largely typified what a frustrating season so far it has been for the east London club. Away from home Sam Allardyce’s team have taken 38 points from a possible 60, a record bettered only by League One Charlton in all three divisions of the Football League. Home form, however, has been a problem all season, with nine clubs in the Championship alone holding better records. Saturday’s defeat stretched the club’s winless run at Upton Park to seven matches.
Allardyce may have the players on his side, but the fans are becoming increasingly restless. The manager’s reaction to recent vocal criticism of the club’s direct style of play, claiming he was “sick of all that rubbish”, is unlikely to help his cause.
The usually flamboyant McDermott played a relatively straight bat post-match, telling BBC Sport:
“It’s three points, that’s all it is. It's never easy to go 1-0 down here [Upton Park] but we stayed in the game, got ourselves a goal and to go in 2-1 up was massive. Then in the second half I felt we deserved to win. But I've been around this game a long time so I'm not cock-a-hoop yet," the Reading boss added.
To add further spice to the promotion race, the Royals cut the gap at the top to just two points after leaders Southampton were beaten 3-0 by Blackpool. That win for the Tangerines lifted them back into fifth spot, one place below Birmingham, who won at Doncaster on Friday night. Both clubs have 63 points, joining Middlesbrough and Brighton, who shared the spoils at the Amex Stadium, with Boro slipping to seventh due to goal difference. Cardiff dropped another two points at home to Millwall, leaving the Bluebirds in eighth on 61. Ninth-placed Hull, now five points off the pace, will be rueing two opportunities missed this week, with defeats to relegation strugglers Portsmouth and Coventry respectively.
The reward for the Coventry’s surprise victory at the KC Stadium on Saturday was a ticket outside of the relegation zone for the first time since October, with Bristol City dropping into the bottom three. The two sides are in contrasting form – the Robins have only won once in ten matches, while the Sky Blues are now unbeaten in six. They clash at Ashton Gate on Easter Monday in what could be a pivotal fixture for both sides.
Portsmouth’s win over Hull dumped Doncaster to bottom spot on Tuesday, but Pompey were brought crashing down to earth on Saturday with a 5-1 home thrashing at the hands of Burnley, leaving the troubled club five points adrift of safety.