The Wokingham Paper

PREVIEW: Swift and Stam look ahead to Reading FC’s trip to Villa after “reality check” against Norwich

John Swift
Reading suffered another home defeat (Pic by Steve Smyth)

JOHN SWIFT says the heavy defeat to Norwich City served as “reality check” as Reading prepare for the season run-in.

Royals went to Carrow Road in good form but were dismantled 6-1 in the first half against the Canaries, eventually losing 7-1.

Despite the defeat, Jaap Stam’s men stay fourth in the table with just five games to go, the first of which comes away to Aston Villa tomorrow (3pm).

And Swift says the mauling in Norfolk has refocussed everyone’s minds.

“It was a quiet bus journey back,” said the midfielder.

Lewis Grabban was one of the men to come into the side against Norwich

“As a team you know it didn’t go that well and you know that there’s a lot for us to do.

“It was more of a reality check I think, knowing that even though Norwich were below us, every game is going to be a tough one.”

In the final five games, Reading could face a number of sides with little to play for in terms of survival or promotion with already relegated Rotherham United coming to Madejski Stadium on Monday after the trip to mid-table Villa.

And Swift says those type of games can be the most difficult.

“I think these are mentally the hardest games,” he said.

“We need to go out there and not think we’ve won before we have.

“Because we’re expected to get three points makes it a bit harder and makes them play with freedom.

“We’re not going to go out there and just because they’re lower than us think we’ve already won and think we’ve made the play-offs, because we’re far from that.”

Wins against both Villa are Rotherham, coupled with favourable results elsewhere could see a top six spot confirmed by this time next week.

But like Swift, Stam is refusing to look that far ahead just yet.

Stam is refusing to look too far ahead

“I am not thinking about that at all,” said the Royals boss.

“Because I know what can happen towards the end of the season, even with five games to go.

“We still control it ourselves and we are still up there. We need to do well and win games.

“That’s what we’re trying to do and I’m still looking at it from game to game.

“Villa is the first very important game for us to do well and get a result to help us stay up there.

“I don’t even want to think about being third, fourth, fifth or sixth in the league and what is going to happen after because I know what can happen as well if it goes wrong.”

The 7-1 reverse at Carrow Road was far from a one-off this season.

Reading have shipped 57 goals this campaign, including five at Fulham and four at both Newcastle United and Brentford, leading to the club being the only side in the top half of the Championship with a negative goal difference.

But Stam says his philosophy can sometimes contribute to a leaky defence.

“It doesn’t play on my mind,” he said.

Goalkeeping heroics from Ali Al-Habsi have not stopped Royals shipping 57 goals

“Of course you don’t want to have a negative goal difference and you want to be up by 20, but the way we are playing, sometimes you’re a bit more open and you concede more goals than other teams.

“You want to try and prevent that but it takes a couple of seasons working together.

“It’s the progress you have with a team. If you play well and score goals it’s easier, but when you’re losing, as a team what can you change?

“Can you think differently and have you got certain players on the pitch to read the game at certain times.

“If I tell you to speak Spanish tomorrow, it’s not going to happen.

“Maybe two words, but you need to learn it and it takes time to learn.

Joey van den Berg could return from injury over the weekend

“Why do kids go to school? It’s repeating and doing things time and time again.

“That’s how you develop as a person but also as a team.”

Reading’s squad had a threadbare look to it for last week’s trip to Carrow Road but Joey van den Berg and Tiago Ilori are both in line to return over the weekend.

Paul McShane is rated as doubtful with a calf problem while George Evans, Deniss Rakels, Callum Harriott and Stephen Quinn are all unlikely to feature.

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