JOHN Swift could return for Reading FC for a crucial six-pointer against Bolton Wanderers at Madejski Stadium tonight (8pm ko).

Royals have been closely monitoring Swift’s fitness following a series of hamstring problems that has caused him to miss more than half of the season.

His most recent comeback after a six-week lay-off came in the recent 3-3 draw with Derby County when he stepped off the bench for the last 20 minutes.

But boss Jaap Stam left him out of his next squad for the 3-1 home loss to Sheffield United a week ago.

The 22-year-old former Chelsea midfielder has made only 12 starts plus three appearances from the bench out of 34 league games this campaign.

And Stam explained why he must be patient over Swift’s fitness.

“I spoke to the medical staff at the last game against Derby when he came on,” said the under-pressure Dutchman.

“It was already planned that he wouldn't play against Sheffield United because there wasn't enough time between the games for his hamstring to settle down.

"It's always a danger and I was thinking that maybe he could play a half, but the medical staff know what's best for him long term."

Stam added: "We'll look at him and hopefully he'll be available soon."

However, Reading will be missing a number of players with Garath McCleary sidelined for several weeks with an ankle injury he suffered against Sheffield United.

Mo Barrow (ankle) is 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.

Reading Chronicle:

Former Royal loanee Chris Baird was sent off for this tackle on Mo Barrow during the recent 3-3 draw with Derby, earning Baird a red card.

However, Sone Aluko could be involved against the Trotters after missing last week’s defeat by the Blades through illness.

Leandro Bacuna must tread a careful line as a 10th booking of the season tonight would force him to miss Saturday’s home clash with Leeds United (3pm ko).

Meanwhile, former Royals Jem Karacan and Adam Le Fondre are like to be involved for Bolton.

Ex-Reading FC promotion-winning captain Phil Parkinson is certain to get another warm reception on his return to Berkshire.

Stam’s men go into the clash in woeful form after winning just one of their last 14 Championship matches, leaving them 18th in the table and four points above the relegation zone.

Bolton have the same point as Royals (34) but are one place below on goal difference and have played one more game after Saturday’s trip to leaders Wolves was postponed due to snow.

Royals are unbeaten in their last seven fixtures against the Trotters, who welcome back Karl Henry and Mark Little from suspension, but could be missing Sammy Ameobi through injury.

Reading Chronicle:

Ex-Reading midfielder Jem Karacan, right, is set to return to Madejski Stadium with Bolton Wanderers.

Stam declared: “It’s not going to be easy, we know what Bolton can bring, we know their team. Like us, they want to be higher up the table.

“They have quality and ability as well as physicality. We need to match that, and then believe in ourselves.

“We need to find answers to what they have and to trust in ourselves that we can get the result that we need.”

Stam confirmed Reading had trained at Madejski Stadium last week while Hogwood Park was buried in snow and that the squad had travelled to Wolves before the game was called off on Saturday morning.

“The game against Bolton is very big, and sometimes before a game like that you want to show yourself in another big game,” he suggested. “We didn’t get that opportunity in Wolverhampton, but now against Bolton we need to bring it.”

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