JAAP Stam has hinted his Reading FC players may be struggling to live up to expectation as they fight for Championship survival.

Royals’ boss is searching for reasons behind his team’s current slump that has left them four points above the relegation zone with one win from their last 14 matches.

The latest setback came in a 3-1 defeat to Sheffield United at a sparsely-populated Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night when fewer than 7,000 fans turned up.

And the situation could get worse this Saturday with Reading due to visit runaway leaders Wolves at Molineux for a televised match (5.30pm ko, Sky Sports).

Stam, whose side finished third last season before losing the play-off final to Huddersfield, said: “The expectations are there when you finish third in the league.

“People think you can do it again or be around that position.

“I always said it was going to be very difficult. It’s not that I don’t trust the squad or have confidence in them, I do.

“But with the quality in the Championship and teams knowing our squad, it was going to be very difficult to end up there again.”

He added: “Certain players might have problems with those expectations, I don’t know. We’ve asked the players that and they say no.

“But in games you need to step up and perform, all 11 on the pitch need to reach their level to win games.”

Reading Chronicle:

Leandro Bacuna missed a penalty in the defeat to Sheffield United.

Reading have won just three home games this season as the pressure continues to mount on Stam.

He still has the support of the club’s Chinese owners, despite rumours this week linking the Dutchman with a return to the Netherlands with Vitesse Arnhem this summer.

But Stam says he does not fear for his position and is confident results will improve.

“Every time we lose I get asked the same question,” he continued. “After two draws you don’t get it, then you lose and you do.

“There is enough ability in the squad to turn it around, but we need to show it as well.”

He continued: “We did very well last season. When there is a good atmosphere and you have confidence you can do a lot, you see it in other leagues.

“But this season, with other clubs in the division, we said that if you want to make progress and make steps you have to change and the players need to change.

“Everybody knows you as an individual and as a team, so you need to step up again and perform.

“I also said at the beginning of the season that you need to make decisions about your squad and what you can bring in to make it stronger.

“I knew it would be a difficult season, but not that difficult.”

The injuries are mounting up for Stam with Garath McCleary sidelined for several weeks with an ankle injury he suffered against Sheffield United.

Reading Chronicle:

Garath McCleary shoots for goal against Sheffield United moments before injuring his ankle.

Mo Barrow (ankle) and Sone Aluko (illness) are also struggling for fitness, while Yann Kermorgant is out for at least another two games and Paul McShane, Jordan Obita, Callum Harriott, Joseph Mendes and Stephen Quinn are long-term injuries.

However, John Swift could be involved in Saturday's daunting trip to leaders Wolves.

And Stam challenged his squad to step up to the plate at Molineux.

“Wolves are a very good team, but you can beat them and do well against them,” he stated.

“You need to work very hard and everybody needs to step up and show your ability. If you’re afraid when you go into games it’s very hard to win. You need to be very brave and be positive.”

Reading also host fellow strugglers Bolton Wanderers next Tuesday (8pm ko).