There are Reading performances that make you love going to the football, and there are Reading performances that make you want to bang your head against a brick wall. I'd say that today's outing was the latter, but that'd be a little too kind. Reading were very, very poor throughout the game, and they should count themselves lucky that they weren't facing a better side. Had Forest been more ruthless and taken the game to the visitors, it could very well have been a cricket score.
Team wise, there was just the one change to the side that somehow managed to beat Bolton at the Madejski Stadium a week earlier. Due to Garath McCleary missing out through injury, Watford loanee Matej Vydra came back into the starting XI. That meant, annoyingly, the retention of Lucas Piazon - with Nick Blackman and Orlando Sa starting on the right and up front respectively.
The first half
The game started as a dull, drab affair that saw very little action in the opening quarter of an hour. The atmosphere was pretty flat, and you could sense that the early season optimism of the Royals' fans was almost entirely gone. However, on the 14th minute, Matej Vydra pounced on a loose ball after Paul McShane's lofted free kick into the area, sliding a finish past De Vries in the Forest goal. It had been a slow start for Reading, and they failed to up the ante after the opening goal. In games like this, taking the initiative after getting the lead is crucial - and this, amongst plenty of other things, saw the Royals go home empty handed.
What really swung the game in Forest's favour was, in blatant honesty, a howler from Ali Al-Habsi. Mendes on the right wing cut back his cross for the waiting O'Grady, whose snap shot went straight at the Reading goalie - who flapped at it, and saw it dribble just over the line. From then, the home side started to get more and more into the game.
That came to a head just after the half hour mark. A poor cross from Oliver Norwood went straight through, with Forest breaking rapidly down the far end. It was Mendes again who turned provider, crossing for Oliveira who swept a very well-placed shot into the far corner past Al-Habsi. Not to take anything away from the strike, but the defending from Reading was poor. Not only did a Reading corner result in a Forest attack of all things, but there was also far too much space for Oliveira to shoot from the edge of the box.
Reading's best chance of the half besides the goal came from Oliver Norwood. The quick-footed Matej Vydra won a free kick on the edge of the box, which was sweetly struck by the ex-Huddersfield Town man - De Vries pulling off a terrific save to prevent the shot finding the top corner.
The second half
Reading denied themselves much of a chance to get back into the game shortly after the break, with Nelson Oliveira finding space in the penalty area to lash home a cross from close range. After that, things didn't get much better for the away side. The performance was lifeless and completely devoid of the spark and confidence that defined earlier performances in the season.
In truth, there weren't many points of note in the rest of the game. Jack Hobbs picked up a second yellow for another foul on Matej Vydra, and Paul McShane was taken off for Rowan Liburd after another injury. Reading did manage to assert some form of pressure in the later stages of the game, but that's not saying much when you're chasing the game against a ten man side.
Possibly the only bright point to come out of the game did come in the closing minutes. Introduced for Lucas Piazon in the second half, Ola John caused the right side of Forest's defence a decent degree of panic with some positive, intelligent wing play.
Steve Clarke has to go - now. Immediately after the Fulham saga seemed to end before the Bolton game, you could say that, if he managed to turn things round, his reputation at the club could be restored. However, considering the pathetic nature of the last two performances, you can't now say that he deserves to stay in his job. Clearly, the effect that he's having on both the team and the fans is a negative one - on the basis of today, I'd find it hard to argue that the players even want to perform for him.
What's more, if this performance had come a month ago, you'd trust Steve Clarke to get stuck into his players after the game and demand better in future. But can he really do that now? With it being clear (to me at least) that he's got little respect for this club, how can he tell others to show dedication on the pitch? For everyone's sake, a sacking is in order - the negative element needs to be taken out so that the club can heal and move forward - that can't happen whilst Clarke is still in this job.