Camp saves Forest from paying a harsh penalty..

Camp makes all the headlines with an outstanding performance..

Nottingham Forest – 2
Reading – 1

Contrasting halves for the Reds today saw them play some of their best stuff this season in the opening half – only to meet a much more organised and hard-working Reading side in the second.  It comes to something when you come away from a win pondering what went wrong – but after hearing the post-match interviews that’s what Billy has the boys doing!

I was reasonably pleased with things leaving the ground – although it did take two exceptional saves from Lee Camp in open play, and of course a penalty save, in the second half to prevent Reading from breaching our goal earlier.  The eventual goal was soft – and foretold by the moves which had brought the earlier saves from the Reds ‘keeper – so I can understand why he was visibly frustrated to have missed out on a clean sheet.

Billy reshuffled the deck to a more familiar starting line-up compared to the cup diversion in midweek – with a 4-4-2 formation comprising:

Gunter   Morgan   Wilson   Shorey
Cohen   McKenna   Majewski   Anderson
Earnshaw    Blackstock

The Reds made their intentions clear from the start – Cohen flicked the ball through to send Earnie clear through on goal but the linesman flag eventually raised.  Intricate passing from the Reds saw Raddy find Gunter who put in a tantalising cross which the Reading back line were able to clear.  Shortly after there were claims for a handball which I wasn’t really best placed to see, but would have given the Reds a penalty.

And then came the goal – and it was another good’un.  The ball came in to Earnie around the half way line and he flicked it excellently to the onrushing Cohen, who found himself clear of the defence but with Royals defenders closing in behind him.  Anderson meanwhile had cleverly checked his run to stay onside and Cohen opted to find him rather than take on the shot – the winger made no mistake with a cool finish to give the Reds the lead.

The visitors did have some possession but the Reds looked incredibly comfortable in dealing with their impotent attacks.  As soon as the ball was reacquired from the wasteful Reading attack, the Reds countered quickly – one instance saw Raddy brought down cynically on the edge of the box.  The freekick was well-taken and looked perfect for Dex to head in at the near post – until Ingimarsson did well to clear for a corner.

Another near-miss for Dex – this time he did connect, but headed wide after excellent work from Anderson, chesting down the ball on the run, beating his man and whipping in a brilliant cross to the Forest striker.  The next assault on the Reading goal required a decent save from Federici – Cohen played a fantastic ball to the far side of the box where Earnie unleashed a powerful volley.  Sadly straight at the Reading ‘keeper.

The second goal came after some frankly amazing interplay between Earnie and Raddy, Raddy eventually slipping the striker free in the box – finally avoiding the flag-happy linesman and slotting the ball neatly into the goal to give the Reds a deserved two goal cushion.  Moments later it really should have been three – Cohen released Dex who opted to shoot wide when he could have set up Earnie with an open goal.

So, half time – and it had all looked all too easy.  Our visitors looked very much like a side jaded from midweek extra-time heroics at Anfield.  I cautiously predicted at the time we’d pick up where we’d left off, but it’s fair to say I was somewhat wide of the mark with misplaced confidence – perhaps that might also explain the Reds’ lacklustre start to the second half.

Reading took a while longer than the Reds to come out of the dressing room – and it as immediately apparent that they’d been drilled to stop Forest playing but working hard to close down much more quickly.  I doubted their resolve to keep this up for the whole of the half, but they did put in a hard-working shift in the second half – albeit with mostly limited end-product in the opening exchanges.

Thorvaldsson was starting to look a bit more ominous – and Lee Camp was called into his first meaningful action of the half.  The Reds were lethargic in getting out Reading’s left allowing the Royals to get a cross in to the Icelandic striker whose effort looked every inch a nailed on goal as Camp had rushed to close the angle and he’d cleverly headed it back across him – Camp somehow contorted his leg to make the save.

Moments later what seemed like a carbon-copy chance – a cross from Reading’s left found Thorvaldsson unmarked again – but once again Camp wasn’t in the mood to be breached as he pulled off an outstanding diving save to get a strong hand to the ball and get it to safety.  In a brief counter-attack Dex did well to hold up the ball and find Majewski whose shot was well-struck but straight at Federici.

Billy spoke of the penalty being outside the area – it looked just in to me, and Nicky Shorey was left with little option having been caught on the wrong side of Kebe.  I wasn’t surprised to see the red card the Reading fans were baying for (although they did give Shorey a nice round of applause before the game, it has to be said!).  Having just pulled off two cracking saves I did actually dare believe Camp might save it.

Save it he did – Brian Howard struck the penalty firmly, but not particularly near the corner leaving Camp to make a solid save diving to his right and getting two hands on the ball and almost – if not actually – putting it out for a throw-in.  The spontaneous applause that rippled around the home sections after the cheering died down was spine-tingling, and Camp lapped it up, geeing up the home support with great response.  Great to see!

Billy predictably shuffled the side – bringing on Perch for Earnie and pushing Gunter across to leftback with Perch filling in the right fullback vacancy.  Even with ten men, Forest started to look more comfortable as Reading clearly dropped their heads for a spell following Lee Camp’s “Mr Invincible” impression.  Chambers was introduced later with Perch moving into midfield to cover the departed Majewski and Chambers slotting in at rightback.

Minutes later the run-into-the-ground Dexter Blackstock was withdrawn to be replaced by Nathan Tyson.  The less-than-impressive Andy Griffin was pressured by Anderson moments later but Tyson’s shot from distance went wide.  Reading woke up again and started to pressure the Reds – Wes needed to be on hand to clear a freekick for a corner.

It wasn’t until stoppage time that Reading finally managed to score – although you wouldn’t know it from the complete lack of reaction from their players or fans!  Howard was given far too much time on the edge of the area to cross the ball in where he found Kebe who had far little challenge on him to prevent him breaching Lee Camp’s goal.  Camp was visibly dejected despite being announced as man of the match prior to this – some achievement given he only had anything to do in the second half!

Lee Camp was – and indeed, is – in exceptional form and deserves many of the plaudits coming his way (although if anyone chants ‘England’s number one’ without a tongue firmly lodged in cheek then I think that’s taking it a bit far.  Personally I thought that Cohen deserves special mention – dangerous and creative in the first half, he was invaluable with his workrate when we were down to ten and under pressure in the first half.

And post-match what struck me was that Anderson and Camp (didn’t get to hear Billy) were actually dissatisfied with the game – that’s brilliant.  This is a good result – but the Reds are looking for improvements, Camp’s comments about pride in their work and cutting out mistakes are absolute music to my ears.  To hear Anderson state in no uncertain terms that “It’s not a good reflection when the keeper gets man of the match” is absolutely great to hear.

I’m by no means unhappy with this afternoon’s work by the Reds – but the fact they are never satisfied and seeking to get even better is fantastic to hear.  It’s true that we should have notched more goals before half time – but since we didn’t, we really should have done better in the second half.  Three more points, and now it’s all eyes on West Brom and Newcastle on Monday!

Also massive congratulations to Non-league Nigel for masterminding a win over Peterborough – it was amusing to hear of the comments on Radio Nottingham during the game.  At 1-0 they said “I imagine they’ll be getting the open-top bus ready!”, at 2-0 they postulated that they would be issuing commemorative mugs to mark the achievement. (This all in reference to the Rams’ bizarre decision to release a DVD of Derby’s struggle to beat Millwall on DVD).  Keep up the good work fellas!

Newly managerless QPR are up next at The City Ground a week on Tuesday – ten games without football means we’ll have to make do with a week-and-a-bit of ceaseless transfer speculation.  With Shorey now suspended for the QPR game regardless, it does start to raise questions over Forest’s plans to deal with the left-back situation.  I’m sure the gossip and rumours will be spewing forth even as I type!

For those of you worrying about Chris Cohen lingering at full time to applaud the fans (given the recent transfer speculation) – fear not, he does that every week!  Two and two, in this case, makes four – and not £5m to Bolton!  Finally, those of you who use Facebook might like to become a fan of the blog.  I’ve been posting occasional things on there and you’re of course welcome to join in!  My final thought is that I’m really glad Matt Mills opted for Reading over Forest, as he wasn’t very good!