Four points out of a possible six after games against top-half teams Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers is a good start for new manager Mark Bowen. The Royals now seem to have the aggression and grit that’s needed in the Championship, rather than focusing on playing the perfect game. Perhaps that was Jose Gomes’ downfall.
Despite this, Reading remain just two points adrift of the relegation zone going into this weekend’s match at the City Ground against Nottingham Forest. Can Bowen retain his unbeaten start? That remains to be seen. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the clash at the City Ground.
What? Championship Matchday 14
Who? Nottingham Forest
Where? City Ground
When? Saturday 26th October 2019 (3pm KO)
Nottingham Forest: WDWLL
Although Forest have lost their past two league games, they still remain in a good position. They’re level on points with sixth-placed Preston North End, with just goal difference separating the two sides. Forest could move into the playoffs if they take points against Reading this weekend. It’s imperative that they put the Wigan Athletic and Hull City games behind them. They have the players capable of reaching a playoff position this season - can they stay competitive for the remainder of the season?
Centre backs Yohan Benalouane and Michael Hefele are both sidelined with injury for this weekend’s match against Reading, although the latter is likely to rejoin the first team squad very soon. Tendayi Darikwa, who was sent off against the Royals last season, is out and will not be available for manager Sabri Lamouchi until 2020. Fellow full back Carl Jenkinson is out for a few weeks, whilst Alfa Semedo and Michael Dawson are also suffering from injuries. It’s not looking good in the defensive area for the East Midlands side.
The Royals have had some tough away trips recently: Swansea City, Bristol City and Queens Park Rangers. This weekend is no different, with Nottingham Forest in eighth position, but Reading will have gained confidence from the past two league games. There’s no doubt whatsoever that they have the fighting spirit needed - coming from behind twice in midweek and scoring a 98th minute winner last weekend shows that.
Matt Miazga’s incident off the ball in midweek could prove costly if the FA decide to take further action, although at time of writing none has been forthcoming. Tyler Blackett and Tom McIntyre are ready to take his place if that does happen, although both options are likely to force Liam Moore to play on the right side of the central defensive trio. Attacking trio Lucas Joao, Yakou Meite and Lucas Boye remain sidelined with injuries.
The last meeting
Reading 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Mo Barrow’s cross on the right for John Swift opened the scoring for the Royals, who were in desperate need of a win. An altercation broke out early in the second half after a hefty challenge from Daryl Murphy, resulting in a yellow card for Andy Yiadom as well as a second yellow card for Danny Fox.
Nottingham Forest were then reduced to nine men with ten minutes to go, after a lunge from Tendayi Darikwa on teenage forward Danny Loader. A terrible afternoon for Forest was made even worse when Jack Robinson put the ball in his own net late on.
This was enough to secure Jose Gomes’ first win as Reading manager - the platform that Reading needed to go on and escape the jaws of relegation.
- Nottingham Forest have taken five clean sheets from their 13 league games so far this season.
- Forest went unbeaten for ten games between August and October in this campaign, before their losses in the previous two league games.
- Reading have lost five of their past ten games against Nottingham Forest, winning four and drawing one.
- Reading have won just three of their 13 league games so far in this campaign, drawing three and losing the other seven.
Likely Reading lineup: Rafael, Richards, Moore, Morrison, Miazga, Yiadom, Rinomhota, Swift, Ejaria, Baldock, Puscas
Continuity could be key for Mark Bowen as he looks for another victory in his third game as Reading manager. You have to wonder what will happen with Joao Virginia now Rafael has nailed down that number one spot - Sam Walker has even overtaken him in the pecking order.
Omar Richards and Andy Yiadom could be really effective wing backs for the Royals this season, providing the width that gives us another option going forward. Liam Moore, Michael Morrison and Matt Miazga remain the best three centre backs that Reading have right now.
However, Tom McIntyre and Tyler Blackett would be adequate replacements if one of them gets injured/suspended. As of Friday night, Matt Miazga hasn’t been suspended for his elbow in the QPR match. Let’s hope the FA doesn’t take further action.
Andy Rinomhota and John Swift may continue in defensive midfield, although Pele may come on if Reading are struggling defensively at the City Ground. I can see Mark Bowen rotating regularly between Pele and Rinomhota, especially with the midweek games. John Swift seems undroppable at the moment, with how important he’s been to the team. He’s become an integral part of the squad and it will remain that way if he can stay fit.
George Puscas and Sam Baldock are likely to start up front once again, after scoring one each against Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday. Baldock has made a remarkable return to the first team and has just about earned another start again on Saturday. His future at Reading is now suddenly looking bright.
Although Reading have started promisingly under Mark Bowen, I can’t help but think that Forest will bounce back strongly after their midweek defeat to Hull City. Reading are likely to get on the scoresheet once again, but it might not be enough this weekend.
Score prediction: Nottingham Forest 2-1 Reading
Other Championship fixtures
All Saturday 26th October (3pm KO) unless stated
Sheffield Wednesday vs Leeds United (12:30pm KO)
Birmingham City vs Luton Town
Huddersfield Town vs Barnsley
Hull City vs Derby County
Middlesbrough vs Fulham
Millwall vs Stoke City
Preston North End vs Blackburn Rovers
West Bromwich Albion vs Charlton Athletic
Swansea City vs Cardiff City (Sunday 27th October 12pm KO)
Bristol City vs Wigan Athletic (Sunday 27th October 1:30pm KO)
Queens Park Rangers vs Brentford (Monday 28th October 7:45pm KO)