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Bowen on Birmingham’s threats and season-defining December

Boss previews Blues meeting this weekend

5 December 2019

The feel-good factor after that turnaround win against Wigan is still in full effect – but boss Mark Bowen knows that it is important to back that up with another three points when the Royals get back to action this weekend.

Birmingham City provide the opposition; Pep Clotet’s side sit four points clear of the Royals at the moment, and Reading will have to earn anything they get at Madejski Stadium.

“It’s always been said that back-to-back wins in this league can really push you up the table – so it’s important to us,” Bowen said.

“We have a run of six or seven games leading up until Christmas – we have started off well, in terms of getting the three points against Wigan. We can certainly play better, I know that, but we are taking the positives. And the things we want to work on, we will take into the game on Saturday.

“Birmingham are a difficult side to play against. We know that – they have big threats going forward with the strikers they’ve got, but the coach has got them well-organised and those pockets of space that we’re looking for will be a rarity so we’ll need to make sure our movement is good.

“The threat they have, not just in and around the box but from crosses as well, means that we’ll have to really concentrate and affect that as well. We’ve got a lot of work to do but we’ll give the boys some tactical information on Friday as well.”

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With games coming thick and fast over the course of the month – including a number of fixtures against teams in a similar part of the table – the ultimate ambition for our season will become clearer in the coming weeks.

And that’s why the manager has challenged his team to get the maximum return as often as possible to keep up the chase on those sides above.

“I make no excuses for it – but ahead of the Wigan game, I told the team that I make us favourites to win in each of the next six or seven games,” Bowen continued.

“That might be putting extra pressure on the lads, but when we played at home to Leeds our plan is to try to nullify them and see what we can get out of the game.

“But these games we’ve got coming up now are massive for us. Going into the New Year, we will have a much better idea of what the rest of the season has in store for us: whether that’s getting close enough to push on towards the play-offs, or languishing towards the middle or bottom half, or if we’re going to be in a relegation scrap. So they’re important games, every one of them.

“I’ve never liked the phrases ‘six-pointer’ or ‘must-win games’, but it’s a fact. The table is always congested – and even though we have had a good run, we are still waiting to see ourselves push up towards that top half.

“That means these games like against Birmingham on Saturday are massively important, as we want to be in touching-distance. To be in situations where getting three points sees you jump up the table.

“We can’t afford to take one step forward and one step back. You need to put a string of results together.”

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