After a lengthy break from Championship football, Reading return to action with a trip to mid-table Nottingham Forest. We spoke to Reds fan Sean Hockett to gauge what could happen on Tuesday night. You can find him on Twitter @G_T_Spectacles.
How’s the season gone for Forest so far?
When you asked me that question for our visit to the Madejski, I was pretty happy with our progress. Jeez, how a lot can change in football. A different manager and 10 new signings.
We’ve played six games under Aitor Karanka - beaten the runaway league leaders and lost every other game. Sometimes you have to face the fact that it maybe isn’t the manager’s fault for poor performances and losses. We’re in free-fall and hoping to arrest that against the teams we’re playing around us.
What do you make of new manager Aitor Karanka? Has he improved the side?
I’ll admit that I wasn’t a Karanka fan when we first appointed him. He didn’t seem to be the right fit for us in terms of the football his teams play. But, in saying that, he clearly has a pedigree for success and knows how to gain promotion from this league. What I do like about him is an apparent no-nonsense approach that put a few so-called professionals in their place. And as you may have noticed at the end of the January transfer window, he cleared out some dead wood, which was sorely needed.
I admire his honesty in post-match interviews and trust that he has the best interests of our club at heart. I’m expecting quite a few changes to the team, as he hasn’t seen the improvements he’d hoped for from our existing players. New signings need time to gel - obviously - but while he’s shown faith in some players from the previous manager’s stint, I don’t think we’ve seen a “Karanka team” just yet, with the exception of the Wolves game, when we all thought we would kick on. Unfortunately we didn’t; in fact we regressed and I reckon he’ll ring the changes ahead of the Reading game.
Who is the danger man that Reading fans should be wary of on Tuesday?
In all honesty, we don’t have one! It pains me to say it, but it’s true at the moment. Tomlin could be a handful, but he’s only made two substitute appearances so far since joining us, so it’s difficult to tell. Ben Watson could be another, but he hasn’t featured at all yet. We’re short on goals - we haven’t scored at home since beating Bolton on December 9 - and are short on creativity right now.
Of all our players - new signings and those that played under Warburton - I’d say Matty Cash is the one that can hold his head high. He’s been the single shining light recently, playing on the right side of midfield, and could be perceived as a danger man. He was unlucky against Hull (hitting the post) and is a lively customer.
Any weaknesses in this Forest side that Reading should look to exploit?
We’ve been pretty easy to beat really. Play a high line and put pressure on us when in possession. If you do that, some of our players - Michael Mancienne in particular - fold like a house of cards in the wind. They are unable to make a decision quickly enough and don’t have the confidence in their own ability to pick the right pass.
Karanka has had another week to knock us into shape following the Hull performance and to get our new additions in better shape to drop into the team. It’s all a bit fluid at the moment as we’re so early into Karanka’s tenure. He inherited Warburton’s side and they haven’t shown him much. The 0-3 loss to Preston at home gave him food for thought and culminated in the signing frenzy we witnessed at the end of January. Time will tell.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
I thought you’d kick on from your home win against us. You neither looked like or performed like a team in the lower reaches of the Championship. Maybe that was just an indication of how bad we were, rather than how good you were.
We need a win, plain and simple. We need to be stronger, harder, more resolute and disciplined enough to keep our shape. Like I’ve already said, I think we’re a team in flux, and I feel this point in the season could our turning point, if Karanka is able to get his new signings to gel and play the way he hopes we can play.
I predicted a win for us last time and look where that got me. You played us off the park. This time round I’m hoping for a win, but I’ll take a draw. I’ll go with 2-2. Let’s get us scoring some goals at home. That would be nice!
This was written before Forest's game against Burton on Saturday.