ANDRIES Ulderink admits Reading FC are firmly entrenched in a relegation dogfight.

Royals’ 1-0 defeat to Brentford FC last Saturday leaves Jaap Stam’s side 18th in the Championship, without a league win in eight games and just four points above the relegation zone.

Pressure is now mounting on Stam and his under-performing players to turn things around and put some much-needed victories on the board.

Such is the concern for the club’s future that Stam and assistant manager Ulderink recently held clear-the-air talks with the team to spell out the massive challenge ahead.

“It would be crazy for me to say that I’m not worried about relegation,” confessed Ulderink. “Of course I am worried.

“We had a meeting a couple of weeks ago and we spoke to the players about our ambitions.

“Everybody realises that it’s a relegation battle now and it’s not all about playing nice football or possession football.

“However, turning it around is easier said than done.”

Last weekend’s M4 derby defeat to the Bees was Reading’s fifth loss in their eight-game winless streak leaving them with 29 points from 28 games.

At the same stage last season Stam’s men were third in the table with 52 points from the same number of matches.

“Lots of teams had other expectations at the start of the season, Sheffield Wednesday are another example,” added Ulderink. “But that’s the Championship.

“Last year we finished third and were nearly promoted, but the season before that we were 17th. It’s unbelievable how close together teams are.

“Everybody knows what kind of battle we have on our hands.”

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Reading miss a decent chance to score in the 1-0 loss to Brentford last weekend. Pictures: Jason Dawson/jasonpix.

Ulderink’s comments were echoed by under-pressure boss Stam whose tactics continue to draw plenty of criticism from supporters.

“Everybody knows it’s frustrating,” admitted Stam. “We know where we are and everybody needs to understand what we need to do to get out of it.

“It’s not going to go away by itself, you need to work very hard and give everything to get out of this.

“We play against very good teams but we need to be better at times.

“It’s a difficult situation, everybody knows that, and it’s very difficult to get out of it. It’s not like we’re doing this on purpose, everyone is doing their best.”

Royals now turn their attention to the FA Cup and a fourth-round trip to Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow (Friday, 7.45pm).

Captain Paul McShane, John Swift and Omar Richard have already been ruled out with hamstring problems, while Jordan Obita, Joseph Mendes, Sam Smith and Callum Harriott are among the long-term casualties.

However, Leandro Bacuna could return after picking up a knock in the recent 0-0 draw at Hull City.

Ulderink confirmed Royals will travel to Hillsbrough determined to progress to the next round.

“Every game is a game where you want to get a result,” he concluded. “It’s another competition, it’s a chance to get a win and get some confidence which we can use in the league.

“We go with the best squad available to get a result there. The players are working hard and are in a good shape in training.

“You can see that in parts of our game but not as much as you want as a manager.”