Relegation back to the Championship is looking more likely for Brian McDermott’s Reading side with each game that passes as they currently find themselves occupying second from bottom, six points adrift of safety at the halfway stage.
Wednesday’s goalless draw at home to Swansea City will have brought some minor relief for the Royals as it ended an abysmal run of seven straight defeats, with the Berkshire club having secured just one win from their 19 league games this season.
Next up is the visit of West Ham, who have made a solid start to life back in the Premier League under Sam Allardyce after a one-year absence, sitting in 12th place having played a game less than the majority of the sides above them.
The Hammers were given a rest in midweek after their Boxing Day clash at Arsenal was postponed and they head into this game without a win in three, with a 0-0 draw at West Brom sandwiched in between defeats at home to Liverpool and Everton.
They’ll be eager for revenge at the weekend after they lost on both occasions against their hosts last term, 3-0 in a fiery game that saw two Hammers players sent off at the Madejski Stadium last December, before going down 4-2 at Upton Park in March.
Allardyce’s men have been priced as favourites to round off the year with a win at 6/4 in the bwin 3way football betting market, with the draw at 9/4, while only a second victory of the campaign for Reading can be backed at 7/4.
One of the main factors in Reading’s current predicament is their defensive frailties. They have conceded 37 goals – more than any other team in the division this term – with 19 of those coming in just nine home league games.
The Royals will count themselves unlucky not to have picked up their first clean sheet of the season ahead of their shut-out against Swansea as they went down 1-0 to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last weekend courtesy of a late Gareth Barry strike.
They will also be given some hope from the fact that West Ham have scored the fewest goals on their travels in the league, notching just five away from home in eight matches, while they have accrued just one point from their last three away games.
However, West Ham were given a boost ahead of the game with the news that Carlton Cole’s straight red card against Everton has been rescinded, particularly with Andy Carroll out injured, allowing last season’s top scorer to be available for selection.
In four of Reading’s last five matches, they have gone into the break level before tasting defeat, while they’ve conceded 11 of their goals in the final 15 minutes of matches – more than any other side in the league.
With this in mind, backing West Ham to win after a drawn first half looks a great option at 21/4, while the Hammers to score the last goal in the match at 19/20 could prove fruitful in a game the east London club should win narrowly given the form of both clubs in the first half of the season.