Since New Year’s Day, Mark Bowen’s Reading side have not tasted victory in the Championship – a dip in form which has severely dented any lingering ambitions of a play-off push in the second half of the season.

With 15 games left in the league this season, Reading currently find themselves ten points above the relegation zone and eleven off the play-off spots. No matter how you try to spin it, Reading are currently sat marooned in mid-table obscurity.

What has been the reason for the dip in form and how worried, if at all, should Royals fans be? Well, first and foremost, it should not be forgotten the level of opposition Reading have faced in recent weeks.

Two games against fourth placed Nottingham Forest yielded two points, which is a relatively decent return all things considered.

The defeats against Bristol City and Millwall, who find themselves in seventh and tenth spot respectively, dented the confidence of the squad.

But it should not be forgotten that Bristol City have the second-best away record in the division (recording eight more points on their travels than Reading have at the Madejski Stadium this season).

Millwall had only lost two of fifteen games under Gary Rowett when Reading visited The Den, so it’s safe to say The Lions very much had their tails up ahead of facing the Royals.

A draw against Cardiff City in the league was also not the worst result on paper, with the Bluebirds having only lost once at home all season in the league.

Admittedly – Saturday’s result was poor. Hull City were depleted on quality and with Reading opening the scoring, even the most positive of Reading fans will have struggled to argue that it was a good result.

With all things considered the points return has not been that bad, given the quality of opponents. With three more tough looking games ahead, the form may end up getting worse before it gets better.

But as we saw over Christmas – this Reading side can pick up results against the odds and going on a run of impressive form.

One of the main reasons that we’ve not seen that, I believe, is the sheer number of fixtures.

The impact of so many games cannot be understated. As well as the games mentioned above, Reading have also faced played four FA Cup ties, one of which going all the way to penalties.

That makes a grand total of ten games since New Year’s Day, an average of one every 4.1 days including Saturday’s draw.

Injuries to key players such as Lucas Joao, Andy Yiadom and more recently centre-back pairing Matt Miazga and Tom Mcintyre as well as Lucas Boye has ramped up the physical toll that so much football can have on a side.

When you factor in time spent travelling as well as playing, opportunities for rehabilitation and recuperation have been at a premium. Also, as Mark Bowen has eluded too in recent weeks, he has not spent a lot of time with his players on the training pitch.

This can only be a disadvantage, especially when Reading have had to adapt to different tactical set-up’s given injuries to players such as Lucas Joao.

Bowen does not currently have the luxury of shuffling his pack and still putting out a side strong enough to overcome some of the better sides in the division. He has been forced to give a lot of players a lot of minutes and not give them a lot of rest.

Did Reading make a mistake not signing a forward in the January window? I’d argue yes, but time will tell on that one. Have the tactics always been spot on? Perhaps not.

But these factors deserve to be taken into consideration. Reading’s league position is hardly conducive to swathes of excited supporters, but things are a lot better than they were when Jose Gomes was dismissed in October.

With the FA Cup fifth round tie with Sheffield United looming on the horizon, excitement should be there for supporters.

Even if this league campaign does end up being a stepping stone to a higher position next year as opposed to the play-off push we were all dreaming of at the full time whistle at Craven Cottage, the foundations are there for Bowen to keep improving this side.