The Championship isn't a division that entertains many long winning streaks, so Reading's achievement in stringing eight successive victories together is deserving of all the credit that was bestowed on it last weekend.
However, the unparalleled competitive balance of the league itself is what we respect more than anything and that's why we're backing Barnsley to beat Brian McDermott's men at Oakwell on Saturday.
The Royals suffered their first setback since January 21 when they were held 1-1 by struggling Doncaster in midweek and that's the ideal precursor to siding with their superior South Yorkshire neighbours four days later. You can get 7/2 about the Tykes and that's a staggering price when you consider they boast a 44 per cent win ratio on home soil this season.
Keith Hill's men can always be relied upon to set about their opposition with great enthusiasm, regardless of reputation, and we think it's about time they turned around a sorry return of just four points from the last eight matches, the last five of which have been winless.
Only once before in five years of continuous management has Hill gone six league games without victory and while Barnsley's current barren spell follows the unavoidable departures of Danny Drinkwater and Ricardo Vaz Te in January, we don't believe the overall quality within the Oakwell dressing room has diminished all that much.
Hill isn't one for wallowing in his own bad fortune and he has sourced what he considers to be adequate replacements, so we have enough faith in the level-headed Lancastrian to turn things around sooner rather than later.
Reading climbed into the automatic promotion places with Alex Pearce's equaliser at the Keepmoat on Tuesday and that now brings its own pressure for a team that has been continually in pursuit for the past three months.
Of course, you could argue that they won't be happy until they've prised pole position away from Southampton and that's a big part of why Jason Roberts was brought to the club, to give the younger players a voice of genuine top-level experience to listen to but we also have reservations about how long the former Blackburn man can maintain such high standards on the pitch.
The 34-year-old Londoner has played eight matches in the space of four weeks, netting four crucial goals, but you'd expect such a gruelling schedule to take its toll on his effectiveness eventually.
1pt Barnsley to beat Reading at 18/5 (Bet Victor)Reuse content