News and Views
What Reading Need To Do To Beat Forest
26 February 2015
By Alex Bower
Reading come into Saturday’s home match on the back of their first away loss in six matches following a poor display against Huddersfield. Nottingham Forest, on the other hand, come into the game having seen off high-flying Bournemouth. With only seven points separating the two teams coming into the match, Reading have an opportunity to narrow the gap between themselves and the top of the table by taking their first home victory since January. If recent home performances against weaker opposition and Forest’s five game unbeaten run under Dougie Freedman are anything to go by, however, Reading will have to start performing if they are to take all three points at the Madejski.
The reverse fixture back in August is not one that Royals fans will want to remember. The match at the City Ground saw the Reds cruise to victory, winning 4-0. Two of those goals came from former Royal Michail Antonio, who is likely to start for Forest at the Madejski. One source of optimism for the Royals is that, the Reading squad is in a much stronger position now with the majority of players back from injury. Last time around, Adkins’ depleted squad options meant he was forced to field a team of youngsters, many of whom were thrown in at the deep end. On Saturday, the Royals will be more optimistic of getting a result.
If Reading are to get anything from the game, however, there are certain things that they will have to get right on the day.
Stick With A Formation That Works
“If you keep going with the same players, eventually all of those players will break down.”
- Steve Clarke
Last time out against Huddersfield, Steve Clarke opted to make six changes to the starting line-up. This is something he has been heavily criticised for, but things may have been different had Reading come away with a victory. It goes without saying that changes have to be made from game to game in order to keep the squad as fresh as possible in the midst of so many games. Six changes all at once may have been too much however, especially when considering players such as Jake Taylor had not featured for the Royals since Boxing Day.
The main issue against Huddersfield was members of the squad being played in the wrong positions. Garath McCleary played in behind Yakubu, Danny Guthrie was played on the left wing and Jake Taylor out on the right. Getting a goal with a single striker is hard enough, let alone when you have your most effective winger in McCleary playing in the middle of the park and a central midfielder playing out wide.
In three of the most winnable games against Huddersfield, Leeds and 10-man Millwall, Reading have started with a single striker and failed to find the net. Playing a formation with two strikers up front gives the Royals their best opportunity to create a chance going forward and start scoring some goals.
Find The Net
Sounds simple really, but Reading have failed to score in six of their last eight games at home, so will have to start scoring goals if they have any chance against Forest, who have netted eleven times in their last five away games. Both Pavel Pogrebnyak and Simon Cox were rested against Huddersfield, with Clarke opting to play Yakubu in their place. The Yak would have benefited from the 90 minutes game time, but it is clear that he is not quite up to speed yet. Since playing with a single striker does not seem to work for Reading, bringing Pogrebnyak and Cox back into the starting lineup will be their best bet at opening up the Forest defence.
Width is also important if Reading are to have a chance of creating anything. Forest have plenty of options on the wings with the likes of Christopher Burke and Michail Antonio, who have scored sixteen and assisted thirteen goals between them in total this season. Jamie Mackie, Garath McCleary, Hal Robson-Kanu, Jake Taylor and Nick Blackman (all of whom have featured out wide for Reading) in comparison have managed thirteen goals and seven assists in total this season between them. Jordan Obita, as we know, likes to get forward from defence and subsequently has the most assists for Reading having achieved seven in total. With Obita, Reading have an outlet but against Forest he is at risk of being pinned back. Forest like to play in a 4-1-4-1 formation, meaning they have extensive attacking options and a holding midfielder to help out when the ball is cleared. Reading need to start keeping the ball on the ground, pushing forward and creating out wide, giving players such as Obita and Kelly the opportunity to get forward. If not Reading’s hoof-and-hope defensive approach will simply result in a continuous onslaught on Federici’s goal.
Stop Henri Lansbury
One thing that works in Reading’s favour is that Forest’s top goalscorer Britt Assombalonga is ruled out after undergoing knee surgery. Forest are proving that they can cope just fine without him, however, and subsequently Reading face a tough time against a strong and highly capable attacking force. Out wide Kelly and Obita will have their hands full with Burke and Antonio, while the central midfielders together with Pearce and Hector will have to deal with the likes of Henri Lansbury. Lansbury has scored ten goals and assisted four so far this season; five of those goals have come in Forest’s last five games. Lansbury is enjoying his best season so far for Forest and will definitely be a threat to the Reading goal, especially from set pieces. With the Reading back four being described as mentally tired in the last defeat to Huddersfield, Clarke may choose to shake things up a bit coming into Saturday’s match. If he does stick with the same back four, there will be some doubt as to whether they can pick themselves up in time to face such a prolific lineup.
Get The Home Crowd Back On Side
It is safe to say that the Reading fans have not had much to cheer about in recent home matches. Reading have failed to score in six of their last eight matches at the Madejski and lost their last two games against weaker opposition in the form of Wigan and Leeds. Those last two performances have been met by boos from an underwhelmed home crowd. Fans will be aware going into the game that this will be a tough game against strong opposition. If Reading can put pressure on Forest from the off and give fans something to cheer about, maybe they can begin to turn home form around. Playing against a rejuvenated Forest, Reading will need their home support more than ever.
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