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Nottingham Forest 4-0 Reading FC: Kidding Ourselves

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Neil Maskell delivers his report from the City Ground on Saturday afternoon, as the Royals were easily dispatched by a clinical Nottingham Forest side - but was it their success or our failure which led to the rout?

Ben Hoskins

There are more questions than answers for Nigel Adkins and Reading supporters at the end of an absolute trouncing in Nottingham.  To the question as to whether our young squad can prove that you CAN win something with kids, the answer on this evidence must be an emphatic NO.  To the question as to whether we can build a successful Championship team this season with the likes of Hector, Edwards and Kuhl then on the basis of what was shown at the City Ground then the answer would once again be in the negative.

While we are in the mood for posing questions, it might be worth asking why an alarming six senior players are ruled out with apparent injuries at this embryonic stage of the season.  It is fair to see that Adkins has been unfortunate to lose the likes of McCleary to a broken back, but the likes of Williams and Guthrie?  The former has barely been able to play two games a week since he arrived at the club and has started the new season in a similar vein, whilst Guthrie - other than when he refuses to play, of course - has been a regular absentee.  Just what kind of medical set-up do we have at Reading these days?  Perhaps Dr Crippen should be struck off the wage bill?  Thinking back to Coppell's 106 point miracle workers, that crop of players barely suffered a knock all season.  Why are we entering the new season with the usual suspects offering sick notes?

Well worth asking a few questions of the manager too.  The 800 hardy souls who braved the trip north collective hearts would have sunk when they saw the team sheet.  No Pogrebnyak, Reading's one stand-out quality player seems to have paid a visit to physio.  Emergency Ward 10?  Reading seem destined to be able to field an Emergency Ward XI in the near future.  Curiously, Jordan Obita - last season's player of the season at left back - was parked in central midfield again.  Last time I saw Obita play in that position was during the infamous debacle at Bournemouth when Adkins fielded 4 wingers across the middle of the park and we got entirely trounced.  Given the midweek signing of an experienced Championship performer in Oliver Norwood and the continued poor performances of Shaun Cummings whenever he is selected, to select Obita in the middle of the park would seem to be an act of sheer folly.  To partner him with an 18 year old making his full debut was particularly bizarre and therefore Adkins himself must take a large share of the blame for this thrashing.

You could direct a few queries at the senior players too.  Particularly one Chris Gunter, captain of this young side.  We've had some inspirational captains at Reading over the years.  The mild-mannered Gunter isn't one of them.  Two of the goals today were chiefly due to his own ineptitude in failing to do his job properly at right back.  When you have youngsters in the team you need your senior players to step up and do their job well and lead by example.  The hapless Gunter - as we have seen far too often during his time at Reading - was culpable for the second goal, when he allowed Antonio to steal in for a soft finish and also the third when he failed to get remotely near stopping a left wing cross which was easily headed past the exposed Federici.  Stop the cross, stop the goal.  Game over early in the second half, which was particularly galling as Reading's one bright spell in the game had occurred in the ten minutes or so before half time when an Obita cross and two byline pull backs by another senior player in Blackman went begging.

Reading trailed after an opening 15 minutes in which they had looked entirely comfortable.  Antonio was allowed to loop a header from a right wing cross over Federici who seemed badly positioned.  It was a diabolical goal to give away after an assured opening during which debutant Aaron Kuhl seemed willing and particularly able to bring the ball down and play.  Half time and still in the game and showing minor signs of promise, the game drifted alarmingly and all too easily away from us in the second half with two quick goals and a fourth goal following a scramble from a corner screamed naivety and displayed all the evidence of a side who had lost confidence and thrown in the towel.  Where are the leaders in this team?  Gunter, Cummings, Pearce you are all experienced players and I am talking to you.

Reading's vain, futile and sparing second half threat came in the shape of Blackman.  Kuhl dragged an effort wide in the first half when well placed and choosing to use his right foot rather than his left.  Otherwise we were as toothless as the scoreline suggests.  Cox was left to plough a lone furrow up top and it is probably kindest not to speak too much more on his performance against his old club.  The heavens opened for the final twenty minutes of what was a rather drab and ultimately one-sided game against a side who have cleared out their dead wood (Cox?  Mackie?) and invested in up-and-coming quality (Assombalonga, who ran Hector absolutely ragged) under an owner who has put his money where his mouth is.  The hailstones fell, but there was no heroic performance for the disappointed travelling support to hail.  The second half was very much a case of 'when it rains its pours'.  The final question - as yet unanswered - is whether the absent half dozen are able to add to the promise of the young guard.  A promise, that is, which wasn't displayed on this miserable afternoon.