Reading’s brilliant form in recent weeks came to an abrupt halt on Monday when they were beaten by Cardiff City.
That setback in Wales was a minor blip in what has been an excellent recovery from Brian McDermott‘s men this season.
After the heartbreak of the play-off final defeat to Swansea City back in May, the Royals suffered a Wembley hangover at the beginning of the campaign.
After the departures of star striker Shane Long and centre-halves Matt Mills and Ivar Ingimarsson, Reading had won just four of their opening 15 league games, leaving them 16th in the Championship table.
But the Berkshire outfit went on a run of four wins in a row in December - and that was part of a string of results that saw seven wins in nine games – to lift the Royals into the top six.
McDermott is often an understated manager who quietly goes about his business, and seems to get Reading into promotion contention without much fanfare; this season has been no exception.
Despite the loss of both Mills and the experienced Ingimarsson, Reading have one of the best defensive record in the division.
In the midfield, Mikele Leigertwood has been a workhorse alongside Jem Karacan, while there is plenty of creativity and width in Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe.
One of the biggest problems that McDermott faced was replacing Long, whose 23 league goals helped put Reading on the brink of the Premier League.
They were big shoes to fill, but he decided to pluck Adam Le Fondre from League Two side Rotherham late in the summer transfer window.
The 25 year-old was prolific in the fourth tier of English football, but he’s taken his time to settle in at the Madjeski stadium.
But he along with Noel Hunt and Simon Church seem to be sharing the goalscoring responsibilities enough to keep Reading in the play-off mix.
This is shaping up to be one of the tightest Championship seasons to date, with only two points separating the top four and just five points between the Royals in fifth and Birmingham in 14th.
While it is set to be a tight tussle right until the final whistle in May, don’t be surprised to see McDermott and Reading go under the radar once again to try and go one step further in their quest for the Premier League.
So what do you think? How will Reading do this season? Will McDermott guide his men to promotion success after coming so close last season? Leave a comment and let us know your views.