ALI Al-Habsi believes Reading FC can afford to relax in the battle for the Championship play-off spots thanks to a 'massive' win at Sheffield Wednesday.

Al-Habsi put in a man-of-the-match performance between the sticks as goals from Yann Kermorgant and Adrian Popa delivered a 2-0 victory that puts Royals on course for a top-six finish.

Jaap Stam's men now sit fifth in the table with a five point lead over the Owls in fifth and a six-point cushion over seventh-placed Fulham, whose own hopes of reaching the play-offs received a blow after a 3-1 home defeat to Wolves.

Al-Habsi beamed: “The players worked from the first minute to the last, you could see the teamwork all over the pitch.

“Sheffield Wednesday are close to us in the table so it was like a six-point game.

“The performance was great and it was fantastic to keep a clean sheet and get the three points.

“It was a great win and it means we are five points in front of Sheffield now so we can be a little more relaxed.”

Local Berkshire:

Ali Al-Habsi makes one of several sensational saves on his way to a clean sheet against Sheffield Wednesday.

Royals were in wretched away form when they went to Hillsborough on Friday following three successive away defeats to Huddersfield, Brighton and Preston without scoring a goal.

But Stam's men put that worrying run behind them with a morale-boosting victory over Carlos Carvalhal's hosts.

“We had a difficult week after the Preston defeat as we didn't show ourselves well,” Al-Habsi admitted.

“But beating Sheffield shows we deserve to be in the top six. To win at Hillsborough is something we have to be proud of.

“We hadn't won away from home for a long time so it was massive for us. You could feel how hungry the players are to get into the play-offs.

“When you work so hard over the season you don't want to miss out at the end.”

Reading's victory in South Yorkshire was also the perfect tonic for Stam's squad going into a fortnight's international break.

Royals face another vital six-pointer at home to fourth-placed Leeds when they return on April 1, and Oman stopper Al-Habsi stressed: “It was really important to get the win going into the international break.

“I will go away with my national team and so will some of the other players.

“We also have some injuries at the moment so maybe the break will help players recover over the next two weeks.

“Then we have another big game against Leeds when we come back. But for now we have to enjoy this latest win.”

Local Berkshire:

Ali Al-Habsi was outstanding in the 2-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday.

Reading's final eight games of the Championship season will also see them face all of the division's bottom five teams as it currently stands.

Al-Habsi declared: “There is still a long way to go and we need to play as well as we did against Sheffield Wednesday for the remaining eight games. If we can do that I don't think we'll have a problem finishing in the top six.”

A number of Al-Habsi's team-mates will also be on international duty after Liam Kelly received his first senior call-up by Republic of Ireland who face a World Cup qualifier against Chris Gunter's Wales in Dublin this Friday.

Royals skipper Paul McShane is also in the Ireland squad while Deniss Rakels is on duty with Latvia.

Al-Habsi said: “We have an Asian Cup qualifier against Bhutan in Oman. We hope to have a good start because I have been away for one year as we have only played international friendlies.

“But I need to go and enjoy it then come back for a tough April with seven games.

“Given the way we have performed all season we cannot drop this opportunity.

“Everyone around the football club believed in the gaffer and how he wants us to play.

“We need to stay focussed.”