Preston North End square off against Reading on Friday evening knowing that victory will strengthen their bid for promotion from the Championship.
While the visitors are one of the form teams in the division, mid-table Reading have lost their way, despite bouncing back in recent matches.
On the back of collecting just five points from seven matches, Reading boss Paul Ince will be disappointed that his side were unable to maintain their standing in the playoff positions.
Nevertheless, that record does not necessarily tell the whole story, with Reading being denied a game-changing penalty in the closing stages at high-flying Burnley last weekend before conceding immediately at the other end to lose by a 2-1 scoreline.
To their credit, the Royals bounced back with a credible goalless draw at Luton Town on Tuesday night, and a four-point return from the last three games is respectable after previously losing three times in succession.
Despite their fall down the table, Reading only sit seven points adrift of the automatic promotion spots with a game in hand, highlighting what maximum points on Friday could do for their position in the standings.
Ince will be optimistic of achieving their goal having kept two clean sheets in three games. They had previously registered the same amount of shutouts over 10 fixtures.
Preston have spent much of the campaign trailing Reading, a consequence of a lack of goals and too many draws, but Ryan Lowe’s side have improved significantly in recent weeks.
Earlier in the month, North End had suffered three defeats in four matches over an 11-day period, yet successive victories have transformed that return into 15 points from eight games.
Successive home wins have been recorded against Middlesbrough and Swansea City, the 1-0 triumph over the latter on Tuesday night moving the club to marginally below the playoff spots.
Lowe has now witnessed his team record five 1-0 wins this campaign, and the challenge will now be to add more goals to their game while maintaining their solidity at the opposite end of the pitch.
Reading Championship form:
Preston North End Championship form:
We say: Reading 1-1 Preston North End
With nine points being collected from four games, Preston deserve to be regarded as the marginal favourites for this game. Nevertheless, a clean sheet at Luton should do Reading the world of good, leading us to predict a hard-fought share of the spoils being played out in Berkshire.