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5 Things: Nottingham Forest (Away)

A first start for Sam Baldock, no appearance from Liam Moore and other things to consider from Saturday’s loss.

Nottingham Forest v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Terrible away form continues

Reading went into their first away fixture of the season against Nottingham Forest with a terrible away record in 2018. The Royals had picked up just six points from their ten league games away from the Madejski Stadium this year so far, with their only away win of the year coming back in January at Burton.

However, their terrible away record continued on Saturday as a solitary goal from Forest’s Hillal Soudani consigned Reading to their seventh away loss of the year. A record which they cannot afford to let continue, especially considering their home form was not much better last season.

Baldock’s first start

Reading’s marquee signing in the summer transfer window was undoubtedly Sam Baldock. Baldock is a proven, Championship forward and now, along with Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and new signing Marc McNulty, Reading finally have some different attacking options.

Against Forest, Baldock made his first Royals start as part of a strike partnership with Bodvarsson and showed some promising signs, making life awkward for the Forest defence at times despite never having a clear-cut opportunity to score. Obviously Baldock’s switch coming so late in the window means it will take a bit of time for him to bed into the team but, in time, he will hopefully become a potent threat going forward.

No Liam Moore

A dramatic transfer window for Liam Moore which saw multiple bids from Premier League side Brighton and even a transfer request, ended with the news that the 25-year-old would be staying put at the Madejski stadium. In a statement, Moore stated that he was “look[ing] forward to the challenge ahead of earning a spot back in the team and competing this season” and it certainly seems as though he will have to earn his place in the heart of defence back with Paul McShane and Tiago Ilori still preferred ahead of him even though his future is now confirmed.

Moore did not even have a place in the squad with John O’Shea providing the defensive cover from the bench. However, Moore staying is a massive boost to Reading’s hopes this season as the centre-back has been a key man in every season he has spent at Reading. Expect him to be slowly reintroduced to the first team in the coming weeks.

Lacking width

One surprise omission from the matchday squad against Nottingham Forest was Sone Aluko. The former Fulham wide man was replaced in the starting XI by Yakou Meite. Aluko was suffering from a knock he picked up in training, but he has hardly warranted the rumoured £7.5 million fee the Royals paid for him last season. He has had a tendency to go missing in a Reading shirt but there is a real lack of options to play out wide.

Other than Modou Barrow, who has been excellent since his move from Swansea, Reading’s wingers are Aluko, Meite and Pelle Clement who are both young, raw and inexperienced and the injury-prone Garath McCleary and Callum Harriott. Reading cannot rely on only one winger to provide width and pace going forward.

“Improving team”

Although the game left Reading bottom of the table without any points, Paul Clement believes there is cause for optimism, saying that “we created chances in both games. For the majority of the games we’ve looked pretty solid defensively, but we can’t be a team that feels sorry for ourselves. We can’t be the ‘nearly team’, where we nearly get a result or nearly get a performance.

We have to turn good performances into points.” Clement went on to call his side a “improving team” and believes that “a positive result isn’t far away” if they keep up their levels of performance. Hopefully for Reading, they can use their upcoming back-to-back home games against Birmingham in the EFL Cup and Bolton in the Championship to kickstart their season.