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Tim Dellor: Royals produce magic moments to move closer to safety

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The end to this most gruelling of seasons inches closer, writes BBC Radio Berkshire's Tim Dellor.

There are just six games remaining, and Reading are now in a stronger position to survive in the Championship than any time since December 11, when they first moved to 21st in the table.

Since then they have been motionless in the table, and at times motionless on the pitch. Tuesday evening marked another step forwards.

Tim Dellor
Tim Dellor

Flashes of brilliance, more well organised and dogged defending, and the few fans who were at the game part relieved and part thinking what might have been.

Reading produce such eye-catching five minute spells within games most observers might reasonably assume the team is competing for promotion at the top end of the table.

What they produce between the five minute spells accounts for the relegation scrap.

They beat Stoke 2-1, to make it unbeaten in four and now stretching eight points away from the bottom three.

It would take a hideous capitulation to be relegated from here.

Much of this season has been hideous capitulation, so don’t relax too much just yet.

Mr Dai, the secretive Chinese owner, was in town to watch the game on Tuesday evening.

He seemed in no rush to leave the ground afterwards, in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes with blacked out windows.

According to the chief exec, Mr Pang, he enjoyed the match and the win.

The three points was always going to be the most important thing on Tuesday, but Mr Dai may have been concerned by the poor attendance from Reading fans.

Relegation battles are not for everyone, but the club will need to halt the decline in attendances over the summer.

In a “post-Covid” world (which is clearly not where we are at the moment), during a cost of living crisis, spending £100 to take the family to watch Reading v Stoke on a cold Tuesday night is not especially enticing.

Cardiff will bring more fans to the SCL Stadium on Saturday than Stoke did on Tuesday, even though both teams really have nothing to play for.

Then Reading travel up to Sheffield United and play Swansea at home at either end of the Easter weekend.

The plan by the end of that run of games will be for Reading to have nothing to play for.

Hull away, West Brom at home and Luton away can be as dreary as watching paint dry, just as long as Reading have mathematically secured Championship football next season.

The fact we are all looking forward to the end of the season tells a story.

Paul Ince punched the air in delight when I corrected his claim his team would keep improving for the next seven games.

“Only six, even better,” suggested he is as keen as the rest of us to get his feet up.

He has done a good job turning the club’s fortunes round.

Most managers would have fancied their chances of improving results from February onwards given the ability of the squad, but regardless Ince deserves credit for the way he has conducted himself.

His sole objective was to keep Reading in the Championship, and it is nearly mission accomplished.

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