READING FC keeper Ali Al-Habsi believes the versatility of Jaap Stam’s squad could be a key factor in the promotion race.

Royals made it five straight Championship wins last weekend with a 2-1 home victory against a resilient Bristol City, leaving them third in the table and six points off the top.

Stam’s men also went 446 minutes without conceding a goal in their best league run since April 2012 before Gary O’Neil struck City’s late consolation on Saturday.

The victory also saw a tweak in tactics from the Royals as Al-Habsi often elected to play the ball long rather than start from the back, which has been Stam’s rule for most of this season.

The decision came after Reading found themselves 2-0 up after 20 minutes thanks to goals from Garath McCleary and Roy Beerens before City began pushing players forward in search of a comeback.

And Al-Habsi was thrilled with the character his teammates showed to secure another important win.

“It was a great three points against a great team,” asserted the 34-year-old Oman international.

“Sometimes when you’re 2-0 up as a team it can be the most difficult scoreline.

“I think the team showed their desire, you can see that by the way that we won the game.

“Everyone got back and it looked really good for the fans.

“It’s not easy to get five wins from five games and we are really happy with that achievement.”

When asked about his side’s long-ball tactics, Al-Habsi added: “The way Bristol City pushed sometimes, we have to make the decision to play long balls to keep the pressure away from us. I think we did it well.”

The win kept Reading third in the Championship table, but it edged them to within six points of leaders Newcastle United after Rafa Benitez’s Magpies slumped to a shock home defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

However, Al-Habsi warned that teams below the Royals are close together on points, and that they will have to remain focused in order to keep their winning run going when they travel to Fulham on Saturday (3pm ko).

“We needed to keep our position at the top end of the table and that is what we did,” said the former Wigan stopper. “It is such a long season and we are taking it game by game.

“Of course our position is good, but all the teams are very close together.”