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It's the cliché-ridden 'business end' of the season, writes BBC Berkshire's Tim Dellor

From now until May you will hear football managers declaring “this is the business end of the season”. They like to say this, in the same way as they like to say “early doors”, “the league table doesn’t lie”, “it’s part and parcel”, and “form goes out the window”. No self-respecting football manager will let a few days pass without throwing out some of those cliches. It’s manager speak, and fans are suspicious of those who doesn’t speak like that.

Reading manager Paul Ince is as good as any when it comes to trotting out the football phrases. He lives and breathes the game, and spends more time consumed in football than anyone I have ever known. If he’s not coaching or managing, he’s watching games on telly or at random grounds, or he’s at home talking about it with his son, who happens to be a professional footballer.

It is “the business end”, but there is still a quarter of the season remaining. 13 games, or to put it another way 39 points are still “up for grabs”. Anything is still “mathematically possible” after Reading won the “six-pointer” on Saturday against Middlesbrough. It’s catching. Now I’m trying to ingratiate myself by speaking the lingo.

BBC Berkshire's Tim Dellor
BBC Berkshire's Tim Dellor

The win against Blackpool on Saturday at the SCL was crucial. It realistically puts to bed any lingering relegation concerns. Reading would need the most spectacularly disastrous last quarter of the season to being playing in League One next season. They are 14th in the table, 13 points above the relegation zone and 10 points outside the play offs. Realistically it’s going to be a mid-table finish which may be a bit boring, but given the circumstances, entirely welcome.

They still have some epic away trips to look forward to. Middlesbrough this Saturday is one of the longest of the season. In a couple of weeks time we can all look forward to a saunter up the M6 to Blackburn – a fixture rudely interrupting the Cheltenham Festival. Preston on Easter Monday should be delightful. It all comes to a close at Huddersfield on another bank holiday Monday early in May.

All in all, there are still lots of motorway miles ahead of us and points to be won. The slight concern is with Reading safely ensconced mid table, and without any chance of reaching the play offs, it could become a bit lacklustre and menial. A squad of older players, loanees, and waifs and strays out of contract this summer, could quickly lose focus and motivation, cruising to the finish line rather than scrapping for their lives. They could turn their attention to next season and their contracts and futures too early.

If Reading come home from The Riverside this Saturday with anything, it will be a surprise. Middlesbrough are third and will not have given up hope of catching Sheffield United, who Reading face at home next Tuesday, in second. Only 11 points in 17 away games, and with just Huddersfield below them in the away form Championship table, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why Middlesbrough start as favourites. But don’t forget, “form goes out the window”. “There are no easy games in this league”.

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