A Season’s Past Division 3 1985-86
24 teams competed for promotion and survival in Division 3 in 1985/86 with some well-established sides including the likes of Derby County, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Bolton but it was an unheralded side from Berkshire that stole the show on their way to a second promotion in 3 years.
Managed by Ian Branfoot, Reading surprised everyone by getting off to an amazing start, winning their first 13 matches and remaining unbeaten until a defeat to Bury in late October! After 13 games Reading already had 39 points and were 16 points clear of second placed Walsall. Powering the Royals was goal machine Trevor Senior who, in the 13 game winning start, had scored 11 times! Meanwhile eventual runners up, Plymouth Argyle had got off to a slow start and were sat down in 12th after 13 matches.
The shock defeat at home to Darlington in November was a mere blip for Reading who won all four of their matches in December and were sat 19 points clear of Derby in second and 21 points ahead of third placed Plymouth at the turn off the year.
At the bottom it was a woeful season for Wolverhampton Wanderers, they managed only 11 wins throughout the whole campaign and finished second from bottom. Darlington pulled off the great escape after looking certain to go down due to a terrible start. The Quakers managed just two win during their opening 15 games which included an eight game losing streak that left them eight points from safety but a decent November and an impressive 13 games unbeaten from February until near the end of April saw the club pull away from the relegation zone eventually finishing 13th.
Swansea City were not able to turn their fortunes around and struggled for form all season. The only consolation for the Swans was that their fierce rivals Cardiff were also abject that season and both were relegated to the Fourth Division along-side Wolverhampton Wanderers and Lincoln City.
Reading’s form did slow down after the new year but promotion was secured with 5 games to go thanks to a 1-1 draw at Darlington that left them 13 points clear of fourth placed Plymouth and the title was secured one game later. Plymouth and Derby would join Reading in promotion with Wigan missing out by just one point.
Trevor Senior finished as top scorer for the Royals with 27 goals in side that also included record appearance maker Martin Hicks (500 league appearances in total) and a young Michael Gilkes who would go on to be one of Reading’s most popular players in modern history.