Long targeting automatic promotion spot

Reading striker Shane Long is refusing to settle for a play-off place ahead of his side's crucial home clash with in-form relegation battlers Preston in the npower Championship tonight.

The Republic of Ireland forward's brace against Portsmouth on Saturday moved the Royals back into the top six but Long is convinced his side still has a shot at making up the 10-point gap on second-placed Norwich.

Long told the Reading Post: "We're going the right way about it and all of a sudden second doesn't seem that far away. We have to set our expectations high and we can aim for that second position.

"Preston are down at the bottom but they've had three wins on the bounce and they're in form, so it will be tough. It's still a great opportunity for us to put pressure on the teams around us."

Preston's stunning win over promotion-chasing Swansea saw them leapfrog Scunthorpe at the foot of the table and their extraordinary survival bid now looks on with eight points separating them from safety.

Preston's Wales international defender Craig Morgan believes the confidence boss Phil Brown has instilled in the squad means their chances of staying up are improving on a game-by-game basis.

Morgan told PNE.com: "In any team confidence gets you results, and if we go into the game full of confidence and it can push us through to get the win then that will be great.

"It could close the gap and people will look at us again. It is a progression of where we want to get to. It has given everybody a great lift around the ground and all the fans now have real hope."

However, Preston's hopes are set to be hit by the continued absence of injured pair Chris Brown and Sam St Ledger. Brown will be reluctant to make any changes to the side who performed so well against the Swans.

Reading boss Brian McDermott is also unlikely to make any changes. Full-back Andy Griffin will be pushing for a place but midfielder Brynjar Gunnarsson is likely to continue to deputise.

  • Click to stay connected with more stories like this
  • Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.

Most Read in Sport