Reading travel to Stoke on Saturday, where they will face a Potters squad whose league position doesn’t reflect their potential.
A stellar list of household names haven’t quite got out of the blocks this season – but there have been green shoots in recent months for the Midlands outfit.
Indeed, their best result of the season came on Tuesday as they swept Luton aside by a 3-0 scoreline, and Royals boss Mark Bowen – who spent four years with Stoke – is preparing for a tough encounter.
“Stoke played on Tuesday – they will have had an extra day of recovery compared to us and an extra day to work on things,” he explained.
“And it’s back to business for us on Saturday. It is a strange situation that Stoke are in, with where they are in the table – they’re like a wounded animal.
“You only need to look at the squad and the list of names they have got to choose from, and it’s certainly a strong squad. I’m sure everybody in the country is surprised where they have been so far this season, but if they start getting on a roll, they can be dangerous.
“They got a result on Tuesday and they’ll have their backs up. It’ll be a really tough encounter for us. I know from my four years there that it is a difficult place for any team to go there and get a result.
“Confidence grows quickly, and it can dissipate quickly as well. At the moment we’ve been a little bit fragile in our confidence, and that happens. We have to play through it – and while you’re in periods like that of 15 or 20 minutes in a game, you try to make sure you don’t concede. If it goes on for the whole game, try to get something out of the game.
“We all have to be patient with each other, and I’m sure the fans feel that they have had to be patient for far too long! But we’re in the situation as it is and we want to grow and build together and put points on the board together.
“So we will prepare our game against Stoke as best we can and make sure we give a really good account of ourselves.”