Jaap Stam admitted it would be even more difficult to secure a top-six place this season after Reading ended their six-game winless run with a 1-0 victory at Leeds United.
Last season’s Sky Bet Championship play-off finalists were in the relegation zone before kick-off yesterday but they belied their lowly position on their way to victory.
Substitute Mo Barrow, who failed to make an impact during a loan spell at Leeds last term, scored late on and Vito Mannone saved Pablo Hernandez’s stoppage-time penalty to inflict a third straight defeat on the early pacesetters.
The win moved Reading up to 20th in the table and with the likes of Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday and Hull all in mid-table, Stam believes the Championship is as tough as ever.
“You’ve probably got 10 teams going for the two (automatic) promotion positions and if you look at the money spent in the summer as well, it’s tremendous,” said the Royals boss.
“It’s more competitive than even last season and it’s going to be very hard to end up in that top six.”
Stam added: “We had the better chances and deserved to win. You don’t always get what you deserve and you know if you don’t score your opportunities it’s going to be difficult when you’re playing against a very good team.
“But if you look at it overall we deserved to win in how we played. We were very focused, very composed, sharp and created the better chances.
“We didn’t start the season well or have that bit of luck but that’s how it goes in football.”
“But you’ve got to keep believing, working hard, being positive and then with the ability you have you get results.”