42 games down, four to go. Our latest test comes at the hands of Luton Town, as we prepare to make the short trip face the Hatters at Kenilworth Road on Wednesday evening (7:45pm KO).
Luton are becoming familiar faces, a team we'll have faced on four occasions this season, having drawn them in both cup competitions earlier in our respective campaigns - and the mid-table Bedfordshire side will be no pushovers after they toppled promotion hopefuls Watford at the weekend.
A vital victory for the Royals could put us back within one point of the top six, providing results elsewhere go our way. Veljko Paunovic will be hoping for a repeat of the reverse fixture, when his side saw off the Hatters at the Madejski on Boxing Day.
How to watch
Wednesday's meeting with the Hatters is available for supporters to watch via iFollow.
Royals supporters can grab their Match Pass to watch proceedings unfold, by clicking here ahead of our 7:45pm kick-off.
Now in his second spell as manager at Kenilworth Road, Nathan Jones has been back with the Hatters for almost a year. The 47-year-old who was previously in charge of Stoke City, has since turned Luton from a relegation-threatened outfit at the tail end of last season, to a team looking to push into the top-half with a handful of games remaining.
His side come in to their visit from the Royals on the back of successive wins and they'll be hoping to end their campaign on a high despite playing for little more than their finishing position, which could still be as high as 7th.
Last time out, the Hatters enjoyed some derby day delight as they overcame automatic-promotion contenders and local rivals Watford in a 1-0 win that came courtesy of a late James Collins penalty, who converted from the spot with his first touch off the bench.
One to watch: James Collins
Hatters favourite Collins has again hit double figures in his second season in the Championship, and currently has 12 goals to his name in all competitions. He was again the hero for Luton at the weekend, as having been introduced from the bench, he slotted home the winning penalty to seal victory over Watford.
Republic of Ireland international Collins began his career in the youth academy of Aston Villa, but failed to make a senior appearance for the Villans. Since departing Villa Park in 2011, the now 30-year-old forward has proved his eye for goal with clubs across the Football League.
The striker scored 10+ goals in one or more seasons for Shrewsbury Town, Swindon Town and Crawley Town, his performances at the latter earning him a move to Kenilworth Road.
Collins has netted 70 goals in just shy of 200 appearances for Luton since signing with them in 2017, and this season he has inspired his team to victories over Barnsley, Rotherham, Norwich and Preston with his crucial finishes.
The front man, who had to wait until he was 28 to be awarded his international debut, won the League One title with Luton, and his 25 goals that year helped them to reach the second tier for the first time in 12 years.
The Royals have won three of their last five meetings with Luton, and will be hoping to complete a league double over them on Wednesday night, to back up a 2-1 win over them on Boxing Day. Alfa Semedo and Academy graduate Tom McIntyre scored their first Reading goals to put the Hatters to the sword four months ago.
That said, we have been defeated by Luton twice this season, with the Bedfordshire outfit knocking us out of the League Cup back in September, and getting the better of a young Royals eleven from the FA Cup in January.
Our most recent triumph at the home of the Hatters came in July 2020, as the Royals recorded their biggest ever victory over Luton, a thumping 5-0 win that yielded just the four goals for Yakou Meite.
Reading have won 26 and drawn eight of a total 56 clashes between the teams, dating back to our first meeting back in February 1921.
Michael Salisbury will be the man bearing the whistle in Bedfordshire during the week, for what will be his first Reading game of the season.
Salisbury last took charge of a Royals fixture in June 2020, when he officiated our 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City at the back end of the 2019-20 campaign.
Ian Cooper and Lee Venamore will be there alongside Salisbury in Luton on Wednesday, while Tim Robinson will be the fourth official on this occasion.
During his 22 league games to date, Salisbury has issued 49 yellow cards and one red cards.
A polite reminder to our supporters that no unauthorised access will be permitted to this game, so supporters must not travel to Kenilworth Road.
We can’t wait to see you all again soon – but for now it’s important that when we play, please stay away.