JAAP Stam wants his Reading FC team to play with more freedom in tonight's play-off six-pointer at Sheffield Wednesday (7.45pm ko).

Royals travel to Hillsborough looking to end a horrible run of three away defeats on the trot to cement their place in the Championship's top six.

Reading are also going through a worrying barren spell in front of goal having failed to score in any of those away loses against promotion rivals Brighton and Huddersfield as well as play-off chasing Preston.

And Stam believes his attacking players need to relax if they are to hit the goal trail again.

“You want to win every game 5-0 but it's not possible,” said the Dutchman. “We haven't had that all season, it's not going to happen.

“It's important we are creating opportunities and lots of times we should have scored but didn't do it.

“Maybe the players are putting too much pressure on themselves. They just need to go out there, enjoy it and give it everything.

“But we also need to improve at the back and stop conceding goals. Small and sometimes stupid mistakes are costing us.”

Stam's men could not have not picked a worse time to enter a goal drought and a sudden dip in form.

Royals have now lost three of their last five Championship fixtures and are clinging onto fifth-place by their fingernails with a two-point lead over tonight's opponents Sheffield Wednesday.

Stam's men fired blanks in four of those games too after a 0-0 home draw against title-favourites Newcastle among those three successive away losses.

Now, with Carlos Carvalhal's Owls up next and fourth-placed Leeds United to come two weeks later after the international break, Reading's hopes of clinching a play-off place are under severe threat.

Reading Chronicle:

Sheffield Wednesday boss, Carlos Carvalhal.


But Stam remains positive, saying: “We look forward to every game because we've put ourselves in a good position and we're still in a good position.

“Everyone wants to finish in the top six, but we still need to play some big games against very big teams including Friday's game.

“I always said this season wasn't going to be easy for us. It's very hard to get into the top six and the players deserve it to be fair. They have worked their socks off to get there.”

And Stam issued a firm reminder to those critics who wrote Reading off before a ball had been kicked.

“At the beginning of the season there wasn't much belief in us from a lot of people, so we have done very well up to now.

“Of course we want to win every game but we are not in a position to do that because we need to improve.

“In all the games we have lost it's not like the opposition have outplayed us, but our own little mistakes have cost us.

“The thing is, we have put ourselves on the map by doing well this season.

“We're in the top six and I have utmost confidence in the players to do well and end up in the top six.

“We just need to enjoy it and stick to what we've been doing throughout the season.”

Meanwhile first-choice centre backs Liam Moore and skipper Paul McShane have shaken off knocks and are expected to make the starting line-up tonight.

However, Liam Kelly, Jordon Mutch, Stephen Quinn, Deniss Rakels, Sandro Wieser, Callum Harriott and Denzell Gravenberch are all unavailable.

Sheffield Wednesday, beaten 2-0 at Aston Villa last time out, are likely to be missing striker Fernando Forestieri with a knee problem.

Defender Vincent Sasso also starts a three-game suspension for the hosts, though Tom Lees could return after long injury lay-off.