Reading 1-1 Nottingham Forest: New Year, Same January Story

It must be something about January. Last year, we notched comeback wins against West Brom and Newcastle, with a late draw at home to Chelsea adding to the list of games in which we stared defeat in the face and waved it aside. Kicking off January 2014 at home to another former European champion, the welcome return of last-minute January goals salvaged a point against Nottingham Forest.

Reading: McCarthy; Kelly, Gunter, Pearce, Cummings (Taylor 82); McCleary (Drenthe 59), Guthrie, Williams, Blackman; Sharp (Le Fondre 59), Pogrebnyak

The first half was a pretty dire affair, with the wet and windy conditions not helping the flow of play, with misplaced passes and loose control the defining element of the match. Jamie Paterson had the best chances for Forest in the opening 45 - his shot from just outside the area was blocked by Chris Gunter for a corner, then he had a pop from 25 yards which went straight into Alex McCarthy's arms. Nick Blackman returned to the side after injuries to Jordan Obita and Jobi McAnuff added to the long list queuing outside the physio room, and he looked lively all game - he fired in Reading's best effort in the early stages, a curler from a tight angle which went high and wide.

Greg Halford, a former Royal, has been employed up front recently for Forest, and he showed his prowess in the air to give Forest the lead. Alex Pearce fouled Halford just inside the Reading half, Andy Reid swung the ball in and Halford looped his header over the stranded McCarthy. In truth, it looked as though any goal would come through a set-piece, so poor were the conditions for "football" - and though Halford's header may have taken a deflection, it was perfectly placed. The Royals went into the changing rooms at half-time 1-0 down, and though neither team deserved a lead, Reading had created very little of note.

Forest came out for the second half and started to create chances from open play which McCarthy had to be alert to. The combination for the first goal came together again, as Reid planted a cross onto the head of Halford, who couldn't get his header wide enough of the Reading keeper. A deep cross from Jamie Mackie found Paterson in acres of space at the far post, but his powerful drilled shot was straight at McCarthy.

Nigel Adkins threw on Royston Drenthe for the ineffectual Garath McCleary, and Adam Le Fondre came on for the equally absent Billy Sharp, but Forest kept carving out the better chances. A punch from Karl Darlow eventually reached Matt Derbyshire, but he could only curl wide when one-on-one with McCarthy. Then in the best move of the match, Nathaniel Chalobah, Reid and another former Royal Simon Cox, combined with some neat passing in the Reading box to release Derbyshire again - but for the second time, he fired wide when it looked easier to hit the target.

As is customary for Reading of late, they piled on the pressure in the last fifteen minutes as Forest looked to hold what they had. The Royals may have dominated the final period, but let's not forget that there was very little attacking impetus from a Forest side who had looked much the better side for the first 75. Nick Blackman fired in a shot from 20 yards which Darlow parried wide for a corner - and from the set-piece, Danny Guthrie found Alex Pearce, whose free header was cleared off the line by a diving Derbyshire. Blackman, in perhaps his best performance in a Royals shirt, then found Guthrie at the top of the box, whose drilled effort was stopped by Darlow.

And then came the last-minute heroics we became so used to last January. Chris Gunter won a free-kick just inside the Forest half on the right-hand side, Royston Drenthe swung the ball in, and Stephen Kelly rose to plant a header into the far corner with pretty much the last action of the game. For once, the relentless "kitchen sink" approach worked for Adkins and Reading. But it's so concerning that this seems to be a regular occurence for the Royals, who only look good when the opposition are sitting back and have no desire to push forward or counter.

The FA Cup comes up next, and a visit to the Amex to face Brighton. Whatever happens there, the positive spin will be "a good chance to build momentum" or "one less worry". But there's no momentum and too many worries around the club at the moment - we'll need some more January heroics to push on and make this season a success.

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