Terry Pierce - Momentum the key for Reading, Rochdale and Stevenage
Published: 19 Apr 2011 - 11:31:35
Momentum is a valuable commodity in football, and it is that time of the year where teams can string together a season-defining run of results to catapult themselves into the promotion mix or out of the relegation spots.
As the Football League season approaches the final furlong, there's a dark horse or two careering past the pack and getting their noses ahead going into the home straight.
The most telling example this campaign is Reading. The Berkshire side were lying in mid-table, looking neither up nor down, as the winter ended. But with spring well and truly sprung, the Royals are unbeaten in 12 and have won the last eight, including huge wins over fellow promotion-chasers Nottingham Forest and Leicester, who are both faltering.
Manager Brian McDermott took over on a permanent basis at the Madejski Stadium last January and finished last season on a high, guiding his side away from any lingering relegation fears and towards mid-table obscurity. They looked set for another campaign marooned in the middle third of the Championship, but, thanks to the recent incredible run of form, they now look nailed on for a play-off spot, and are even in with a shout of an automatic promotion place.
It is hard not to heap praise on McDermott for the turn-around in the club's fortunes. Over the years the Royals have been well backed by Chairman Sir John Madejski, but McDermott hasn't had an endless pot of cash at his disposable. Yet, by combining the fruits of a fantastic academy set up with shrewd, experienced signings such as Ian Harte, he has built a squad that can boast quality and depth.
Every year, as the season reaches a climax, the word momentum is thrown around, but given Reading's storming run of form it'd be very hard to bet against them in the play-offs. And if they can continue their run for a handful more fixtures, they may not even need the end-of-season 'lottery'.
It's not just Reading who are timing their charge to perfection. Down in League One, Keith Hill's Rochdale are just two points off the top six with four to play, all in their first season in the third tier for almost 50 years.
Dale have won six of their last nine, including an impressive victory over big-spending Southampton. They did lose at the weekend, to Brentford, but Hill and his side should be congratulated for a hugely successful season, even if they do miss out on a play-off spot next month.
Most Dale fans would have taken fifth bottom at the start of the campaign. In comparison to a fair few clubs in the third tier they have a tiny budget and small attendances, but in Hill they have a manager whose eye for detail and preparation has seen him become the club's most successful boss ever.
Finally, looking at the bottom division, it's hard to ignore the form of another side chasing a second-successive promotion - Stevenage.
Boro won five consecutive games at the tail-end of March and are unbeaten in eight, a run that has seen them rocket into the top seven. The top three may be just out of reach for Graham Westley's side, but, like Rochdale, they should be applauded for a sterling first season in the Football League, even if they eventually miss out on promotion.
It is often said in football that form is temporary and class is permanent but at this stage of the season, form is invaluable, and momentum is the key to success.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:terry pierce
- Terry was born and bred in Wiltshire, and is a massive Swindon fan - travelling the length of the country most weekends to watch the 'mighty' Reds. He also manages a successful(ish) Sunday league side, and his life pretty much revolves around football. Five-year-old Terry was in the crowd when Swindon won promotion to the Premier League in 1993 with a 4-3 play-off win against Leicester. He cried after every goal. Read Terry's thoughts every week on life outside the Premier League. Follow Terry on Twitter @telpierce.
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