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Reading 2-0 Nottingham Forest: A Game To Turn A Season?

Could that be the result that kickstarts Reading?

John Swift stands over a free-kick
Simeon Pickup

Well that was great, wasn't it? My immediate impression walking away from the match is that I'd just seen what Reading games used to be like - team spirit, positive football, a lively atmosphere in the ground - and three points!

With a few exceptions, we've not seen games like that over the last two seasons. When we've won, it's often been a case of clinging on for dear life, not the comfortable brushing aside of the opposition that Saturday's 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest was. Reading may not have been perfect - the Jose Gomes era is still in its infancy after all - but they were better than their opponents in all key areas.

Naturally, the Royals tried to control possession when they could, but it's what we did out of possession that won the day. We were strong in the tackle, won our 50-50s, were defensively organised, and relentlessly harried a Forest side that grew increasingly frustrated as the game went on.

Even before the two red cards you could see the effect of Reading's tenacity on the managerless Reds; complaints going into the referee and passes going astray. Early baths for Danny Fox and Tendayi Darikwa were the symptoms of just how far the Royals had got under their opposition's skin.

For our part, a cool finish from John Swift and Jack Robinson's own goal (forced by a naughtily low, hard cross from Andy Yiadom) proved to be the difference. Jose Gomes has previously been frustrated by his side's inability to score - particularly against QPR and Manchester United - but no longer.

All in all, Reading put in the kind of effective, positive, confident team performance which we've simply not seen in far too long. For once, we knew not only how to win, but also how to win convincingly.

The day began with a team selection that saw four changes from the side that were knocked out of the cup a week earlier. Liam Kelly, Callum Harriott, Garath McCleary and Danny Loader came out for Leandro Bacuna (back from suspension), Modou Barrow, new signing Ovie Ejaria, and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson (back from injury). Loan arrival Lewis Baker took his place on the bench.

Jaakkola; Yiadom, Ilori, Moore, Richards; Bacuna, Rinomhota; Barrow, Swift, Ejaria, Bodvarsson.

Subs: Walker, Blackett, Gunter, Baker, McCleary, Aluko, McCleary, Loader.

Jose Gomes deployed that team in his customarily narrow 4-2-3-1, although Ejaria's position on the left was fluid, so that he'd often drop back into the midfield or cut inside.

First half

Reading started the stronger of the two sides; Ejaria putting a header over the bar early on, and Omar Richards' deep cross just evading the head of Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who would surely have buried the ball if he'd reached it. Down the other end, Lolley was denied by a strong block from Yiadom.

However, it was the home side that took the lead. Leandroa Bacuna fired the ball into the feet of John Swift who turned and played in Modou Barrow with space down the right. The Gambian cut inside before the pulling the ball back for Swift, who calmly slotted past Pantilimon.

Reading v Crystal Palace - Pre-Season Friendly
Goalscorer John Swift
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Jose Gomes' side reacted well to going in-front, keeping their cool at the back and not committing the silly errors that have seen us blow leads in previous games. Tiago Ilori and Omar Richards in particular put in vital interventions at the back, but it was the pressure higher up the pitch that really paid off.

All the attacking players were tenacious out of possession. Forest wanted to play their way up the pitch, but energetic closing down from Swift, Ejaria, Bodvarsson and others allowed the home side to win the ball back that bit quicker and prevent the visitors from picking up any momentum.

Omar Richards was a bit too tenacious, flying in recklessly with a sliding challenge that would luckily only see him booked. Another referee may not have been so kind.

As for further chances, Barrow and Ejaria would test the 'keeper a few more times, but without quite creating that clear-cut opportunity to double Reading's advantage.

Second half

The second half started with a near-miss for Forest; Daryl Murphy shooting over from around 10 yards out, but Reading soon reasserted their dominance. Leandro Bacuna, perhaps looking forward to the Six Nations, blazing over the bar after bursting into space on the edge of the box. John Swift went closer, forcing a parry from Pantilimon via a free-kick.

Growing increasingly frustrated, Murphy's dangerous challenge on John Swift on the hour mark prompted a mass brawl in front of the East Stand. Although the striker would avoid the red card that the home fans made it clear they wanted, yellows were handed out to him, Robinson, Moore, Yiadom - and the already-booked Fox. Second booking.

Reading looked more comfortable from there, and pushed forward in search of a second. However, we squandered big chances from Barrow, Swift, debutant Baker and McCleary, before Darikwa's lunge on Danny Loader was met with a straight red card.

The cherry was added to the proverbial cake on 87 minutes, with Andy Yiadom's drilled cross from the left turned in by Robinson. A lucky goal perhaps, but nothing less than we deserved.

Closing thoughts

We've had false dawns at other points in this season, but this result feels different. Putting in such a promising performance will be a huge confidence boost to a side that have been in desperate need of a comfortable win. Scraping victory here and there is all well and good - and vital if we're to avoid relegation - but the nature of this 2-0 triumph could be a sign that we're finally ready to turn a corner.

The result also comes at a particularly good time for Jose Gomes. The last week had seen Reading outplay Manchester United, kick-start their January signings by bringing in Ejaria and Baker, and continuing their squad clear-out. Put a huge three points onto the end of that week, and you can honestly say that things are finally starting to fall into place.

Keeping that up will be another challenge entirely, and next week's trip to another East Midlands side - play-off chasing Derby County - won't be easy.

But when have Reading ever won at Derby?