Reading return to the Championship action and the Select Car Leasing Stadium this afternoon after a long international break to face Steve Cooper’s Nottingham Forest.
The Royals could be in for a tricky task after seeing the East Midlands outfit improve vastly under the Welshman, replacing Chris Hughton in September and proving to be a breath of fresh air at the City Ground after such a dire start to their campaign. With a new man at the helm and with that, a different approach, their future looks a lot brighter and they will be hoping to build on their progress since his appointment with an away victory today.
They come up against a Reading side that will be praying to see a few players return from injuries and new signing Andy Carroll come on at some point. Will that be enough to secure today’s hosts a point or three though? Let’s wait and see.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this second-tier tie.
What? Championship Matchday 18
Who? Nottingham Forest
Where? Select Car Leasing Stadium
When? Saturday 20th November 2021
Opposition Manager? Steve Cooper
First of all, we have to address the points deduction. My verdict? Six points isn’t too bad and let’s be honest, the punishment could have been a lot worse considering the huge losses the club have made in recent seasons. However, I do have to praise the club in one respect, and that’s the fact they were transparent about the financial situation, something that may have reduced the severity of the deduction.
There are concerns over whether we have the right decision-makers in charge now though. That’s my main concern, because things won’t get any better unless there are fresh faces involved and a complete change in strategy.
I say the punishment was something of a relief considering how bad it could have been, but it’s also a real source of embarrassment. Lessons need to be learnt - because there cannot be a repeat of what’s happened in the last four years. A long-term plan with a focus on the academy should now be starting to be formed, with the business plan providing clarity on what the club can and can’t do.
No one would like to be in Veljko Paunovic’s situation today, because it remains unclear which formation and system Cooper will adopt in Berkshire. Starting off with a back three, he reverted back to a flat back four in their last game against Preston North End, a match in which the Reds thrived and came away with a 3-0 victory.
Two key players that are likely to start for Forest this afternoon are full-backs/wing-backs Max Lowe and Djed Spence, both of whom have thrived on loan this term and will be key in providing an attacking threat out wide. They will be expected to be alongside Joe Worrall and Scott McKenna, two very good defenders who will keep a clean sheet for today’s away side unless they are faced with a formidable threat (*cough* Andy Carroll).
One man that may not start though is winger Alex Mighten, who didn’t impress fans in their previous match and could be used more effectively as an impact player at this stage. His potential omission could signal a switch to a back three again.
One to Watch: Lewis Grabban
There were many potential options for this one. Brennan Johnson has been impressive after returning from a fruitful spell out on loan at Lincoln City last term, the previously-mentioned Spence and Lowe are likely to be key, midfielder Ryan Yates has vastly improved under new manager Cooper and loanee Philip Zinckernagel has proven to be a solid summer addition.
However, former Royal Lewis Grabban also deserves a mention after making such a positive start to the campaign. Being part of one of the worst attacking teams in the league last term, he has bounced back exceptionally well with his eight goals in 16 second-tier games during 2021/22 thus far.
At 33, he’s still performing exceptionally well in the second tier and deserves a mention for his importance in Forest’s recent success. His appearance and impact from the bench in their away match against Barnsley at the end of September was particularly impressive, completely changing the game at Oakwell and scoring near the end to secure the three points.
The Last Meeting
Nottingham Forest 1-1 Reading
- Reading have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five league games. Ahead of another two tough ties against Sheffield United and Swansea City, a clean sheet against today’s opponents would be a major confidence booster.
- The Royals have gone unbeaten in their last five meetings with today’s opponents. We all know what’s happening this afternoon then.
- Forest have won 18 points from a possible 27 under their current boss. Not a shabby total at all.
- However, they have kept just one clean sheet in their previous six. Will sticking with a flat back four help in their quest to keep the Royals at bay?
My Reading lineup: Southwood, Rahman, Moore, Dann, Holmes, Yiadom. Laurent, Dele-Bashiru, Ejaria, Swift, Puscas
In goal, it has to be Luke Southwood again. Hopefully he has improved further with his experience with Northern Ireland, an opportunity that was much deserved after putting in some solid displays this term.
Sticking with a back five, something I quite like with Baba Rahman and Andy Yiadom given more license to get forward, the Ghanaian duo start again and will be vital in providing a threat out wide.
Tom Holmes has been solid enough against the likes of Millwall and Birmingham City, so he takes his place in the defence alongside Liam Moore and Scott Dann. Those three provide a nice mix of youth and experience, so they could be a formidable trio for the remainder of the campaign.
In midfield, Josh Laurent and Tom Dele-Bashiru start as the two in central midfield despite the potential availability of Danny Drinkwater and Andy Rinomhota, with the latter two potentially able to come on and make an impact at some point. It wouldn’t be a surprise to Drinkwater start though considering his ability on the ball.
Further up the pitch, Ovie Ejaria and John Swift start as semi-wide options behind George Puscas, though it would be good to see the pair work closely with each other in creating goalscoring opportunities.
They could be key in securing a point for the Royals - a decent result considering the calibre of the side they’re facing. I’m going with a 1-1 draw.
Score Prediction: Reading 1-1 Nottingham Forest
Other Championship Fixtures
All Saturday 20th November (3pm KO) unless stated:
Sheffield United vs Coventry City (12:30pm KO)
Bristol City vs Blackburn Rovers
Fulham vs Barnsley
Huddersfield Town vs West Bromwich Albion
Hull City vs Birmingham City
Middlesbrough vs Millwall
Preston North End vs Cardiff City
Stoke City vs Peterborough United
Swansea City vs Blackpool
Derby County vs AFC Bournemouth (Sunday 21st November; 12pm KO)