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Three To Watch: Nottingham Forest (H)

Can Reading find that winning feeling again? Here are the three key men to look out for.

Notts County v Nottingham Forest - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Michael Mancienne

Michael Mancienne completed a move from German side Hamburg in July 2014. Since joining the Reds, the centre-back has become a key component Mark Warburton’s defence, making over 112 appearances.

During last season, in which Nottingham Forest were almost relegated to League One, Mancienne was arguably one of the better players in the Forest side.

In terms of playing style, Mancienne is exactly the kind of centre half that Mark Warburton values: defensively strong, but also comfortable on the ball - of the Forest players who have started at least eight games this season, only Liam Bridcutt has a higher passing percentage than Mancienne.

However, the Chelsea academy graduate isn’t afraid to clear his lines - he averages 8.8 clearances per match, the fourth highest in the league. For context, that’s some way ahead of Reading’s best - Liam Moore’s average is just 5.8.

Nottingham Forest v Burnley - Pre Season Friendly Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Kieran Dowell

The 20 year-old is a new signing at the City Ground having joined Nottingham Forest on a season-long loan from Everton. Dowell is a hot prospect, having been included in Paul Simpson’s England squad for the u20 World Cup in the summer - alongside Reading’s Luke Southwood.

He even scored for his country, netting the winner over hosts South Korea in the group stage. The goal proved to be a crucial one, with England ultimately winning the tournament.

Dowell has also been in fine form this season, scoring five times in 13 appearances so far. He demonstrated his confidence at the weekend, scoring a hat-trick in front of the Sky cameras away at Hull. It was enough to seal victory in a 3-2 win for Forest, although former Royal Michael Hector scored a late consolation for the home team.

Playing in a central position behind frontman Daryl Murphy, Dowell has the potential to wreak havoc on Reading’s defence. Therefore, Joey van den Berg will have a tough job on his hands in stopping Dowell.

Barrie McKay

The final player that Reading fans will need to keep on is winger Barrie McKay. The 22 year-old is another new signing, having joined from Rangers in the summer, reuniting with former Gers boss Mark Warburton in the process.

Like Dowell, McKay has made a good start to life at Forest with three goals and six assists in 11 Championship appearances, making him the biggest contributor of goals in the entire Forest squad. In fact, the Scotland international is joint top for assists in the division, alongside QPR’s Luke Freeman.

Although he doesn’t put a lot of crosses into the box (he averages only 0.9 per game, level with defender Tyler Blackett), he’s still a dangerous creator, making a respectable 1.7 ‘key passes’ each match - the 19th best in the league.

On the whole, the 22 year-old has adapted very well to life in the Championship, having made the switch from the SPL. As a result, Chris Gunter has a tough task on his hands in trying to contain McKay.