Royals up to fifth with comfortable win
Saturday 29th October 2016
Fifth in the league? What happened to just consolidating this year, Jaap?! A comfortable win against Nottingham Forest on Saturday took the Royals into the play-off spots.
The Dutchman reverted to his more trusted and experienced side, following a much changed line-up in midweek against Arsenal. Chris Gunter, Paul McShane, Danny Williams, John Swift, Roy Beerens and Yan Kermorgant returned to the line-up, as we faced a Forest side that was depleted by injuries, so much to the extent they had to play Matt Mills! You do have to feel sorry for them....
It wasn't the fastest start, but Reading settled down a lot quicker than the visitors did, keeping the ball without hurting them. We managed to strike early though, we worked the ball into space to Swifty, who took aim form range, Stojkovic parried his effort only as far as McCleary, who finished well from 15 yards, and didn't celebrate against his former side.
The visitors couldn't get into the game early doors, as constant long balls to Vellios weren't working - their best attacks came through the lively Osborn, who was given a free role behind the striker. After his earlier fumble, Williams tested Stojkovic from range again, this save wasn't the most convincing either, but did go out for a corner eventually.
Kasami had Forest's first real chance of the game, as good play on the right side allowed a cross to come in on the former Fulham players' head, but could only direct straight into the hands of Al-Habsi. The away side were coming good in the final minutes of the half, as the Omani keeper had to do well to palm away in a goalmouth scramble and make a good reflex save to deny Lichaj from the edge of the box.
Forest, who came into the game with just one win in ten games, looked a lot livelier in the second period. Reading were dropping deep as Lansbury was starting to have more of an influence that you would expect from a player with his capabilities. Lichaj had a great chance to level the game as a lucky deflection put the ball into path through on goal, but dragged to effort wide, to the agony of the Forest faithful behind the goal.
We needed a second goal in an attempt to kill off the away side, as they were knocking on the door, and that second duly came against the run of play. Former Forest boys Gunter and McCleary linked up on the right side, McCleary's low cross fortunately deflected into the path of the Welsh international, who made no mistake in finishing confidently, in what was his first league goal for Reading in over 140 games - about time Gunts!
This seemed to take the life out of the Forest side that already seemed to be lacking ideas, even with Assombalonga coming off the bench with half an hour to play. Lansbury thought he won his team a penalty when he was hauled down near the box, but the referee reversed his decision after consulting with his linesman - Kasami took the resulting free-kick, but agonizingly smashed it into the wall.
Joe Worrall could have put the home side under some pressure with five minutes to play, as he rose highest at the back post from a corner, but couldn't direct it on target. Substitute Assombalonga was denied a goal late on rightly by the linesman's flag, as Reading managed to see the game out comfortable, in what was our first win by more than one goal in over a year!
Two league wins on the bounce, two clean sheets, fifth in the league - who can complain? We weren't at our best, but we didn't need to be. Plenty of things to improve upon, which Stam eluded to after the game, but also plenty to be optimistic about as it stands. Next up we have Wigan away this Saturday, as we enjoy a rare gameless midweek.
Reading - 4-3-3: Al-Habsi; Gunter, McShane, Moore, Blackett; Van der Berg, Williams, Swift; McCleary, Kermorgant, Beerens.
Subs: Moore, Watson, Obita, Kelly, Evans, Harriot, Samuel.
Forest - 5-3-2: Stojkovic; Lichaj, Mills, Perquis, Worrall, Traore; Cohen, Lansbury, Kasami; Osborn, Vellios.
Subs: Hendersen, Edser, Fox, Grant, Dumitru, Lica, Assombalonga.