READING FC boss Jaap Stam believes their 2-0 win over promotion rivals Sheffield Wednesday has restored his players' confidence for the Championship run-in.

Royals' position in the top six looked under threat after three successive away defeats to title-chasing Brighton and Huddersfield as well as Preston North End.

Stam's men also failed to score in all those games and hadn't found the net in four of their previous five fixtures before Friday's night's trip to Hillsborough.

But it was Reading who emerged victorious from the battle of the division's fifth and sixth-placed teams.

And with seventh-placed Fulham slipping up at home after a 3-1 reverse against Wolves, Reading in fifth are six points clear of the Cottagers with eight fixtures remaining.

Stam said: "It was a tough game. We knew it wouldn't be easy going to Sheffield with the crowd behind them.

"They are also in the top six so it's a very big win.

"All week after the Preston defeat we spoke about where we needed to improve and what we could do better, and the players performed.

"They are very eager to get results and stay up there.

"It really would be a shame if we were knocked out (of the play-offs) towards the end of the season.

"So it is a result that gives the players extra motivation and more self confidence in what they can achieve from now until the end of the season."

Reading, missing a number of players though injury including skipper Paul McShane, led through Yann Kermorgant's 13th-minute strike.

After Morgan Fox had hit the post for the home side Reading needed a strong rearguard action to keep their noses in front.

They also had Ali Al-Habsi to thank for pulling off a string of crucial saves to deny former Reading target Jordan Rhodes on numerous occasions and Callum McManaman at the very death.

Only when Adrian Popa notched his first Reading goal deep into injury time on the counter-attack after the Owls had pushed everyone forward for a corner were Stam's men able to relax.

"We normally press high up the pitch and try to win the ball early," explained Stam.

"That can leave you open and you can get caught on the break which happened to us during a couple of recent games.

"But everyone did their job very well. We worked very hard defensively to keep a clean sheet.

"Ali has been great for us all season. We know his reactions are great and he seems to be able to block everything or even catch it.

"He's a great personality in the team and he's already done his bit for the season.

"But it's not only Ali, everyone worked hard to get this result."

The victory was the ideal result for Royals going into the fortnight's international break, and Stam stated: "A few players are leaving, some have a couple of extra days off and others will be in working.

"But we won't overwork them because we need as many fit as possible for the end of the season.

"It's nice to go into the international break after a win, especially against a side like Sheffield Wednesday."

Reading face another huge six-pointer when they return with a home clash against fourth-placed Leeds United on April 1.

Leeds defeated second-placed Brighton 2-0 at home yesterday and Stam admitted: "Leeds are a quality team and they're doing very well.

"They are close competition for us so it would  be nice to get a good result against them.

"We know it's not going to be easy but we will give it a good go.

"The players have put themselves on the map this season because of how they have performed.

"We've worked so hard to get into that top six."