Royals rise, Reds survive to fight another season..

Reading – 1
Nottingham Forest – 0

That feels better, doesn’t it?  Championship status secured.  Sure, we lost – and it was a disappointing defeat too in a game where we made a decent show of ourselves, but you know what?  It’s been a while since I cared less.  In snagging the win Reading secure promotion, so huge congratulations to them, whilst we can thank Millwall for securing the win that ultimately decided our fate at the Ricoh Arena.

So, to our game – Forest started strongest and repelled Reading early doors, the home side began to press before half time, and the second half blossomed into a more open encounter with both sides creating but failing to convert chances – until the late winner for the hosts which, by this stage given the later kick off time, didn’t really matter (although I’m sure it did on the pitch!).

As promised Steve Cotterill made some changes to the side, although only a couple, giving the left side a break with Cunningham and Reid dropping to the bench to be replaced by Elokobi and Wootton, giving us a slightly lop-sided looking midfield..

Wootton   Chambers    Lynch    Elokobi
Gunter    Guedioura    McGugan    Anderson

Very early in the game the Reds were looking to strike, with Gunter and Majewski combining well to feed McGugan for a strike from an angle, but it ended up just wide of Federici’s goal.  Whilst Reading retained the ball well they struggled to muster much by way of attack, whilst McGugan was looking dangerous for Forest, he picked out Gunter with a lovely pass but unfortunately the makeshift winger was just offside.

Reading did have the ball in the net after 20 minutes, but it was disallowed owing to the fairly obvious foul on Lee Camp leaving him prone and unable to guard an empty goal from Jason Roberts converting.  Guedioura had a powerful strike from range on target, Federici couldn’t hold it and it fell for Blackstock but the Reds striker was offside.  Dex had the next chance too, a ball from Lewis sent him clear with a nice turn, his shot to the far post lacked power and gave the Royals keeper a simple save to make.

As the first half came to close the home side did start to build the pressure – culminating in a decent strike from outside the area by Leigertwood which was well saved by Camp.  The remainder of the half was basically Forest repelling increased pressure from the home side – there weren’t any real scares though.  At half time we were still safe – Coventry were level, we were level – safe.  For now.

The second half kicked off and Reading were very much on the front foot – Kebe crossed to Hunt in space, who conspired to miss the target with his head from ten yards with no defender near.  A dangerous ball in from Ian Harte followed, but Elokobi was on hand to head it away, ricocheting off Hunt and giving the Reds a goal kick.  Big George showed a touch of class at the other end too, connecting with a corner by the means of an overhead kick from around twelve yards, just missing the target.

Forest started to build pressure upon the home side – but much as Forest had in the first half Reading showed they could repel the borders effectively too, despite some promising positions Forest weren’t even able to muster a shot on target.  The home side were dangerous on the break too, and combined with a slip-up by Joel Lynch it could’ve given the home side the lead when in-form Adam Le Fondre got clean through against Camp, lofting his shot over the ‘keeper but mercifully wide of the goal.

This seemed to galvanise the home side somewhat – despite attentions from both Guedioura and Gunter – Shaun Cummings was able to get a shot away, but it was considerably wide of the target!  Forest had their own spell in attack, and it was a McGugan corner that gave us our closest chance – with Elokobi again connecting but this time hitting the bar.  Guedioura and McGugan combined but the end effort was well over.

Then the deadlock was broken – a cross from the left evaded everyone but Leigertwood who put the ball in from close range.  There followed a kerfuffle with Forest players complaining to the referee presumably believing a foul to have taken place.  Certainly the referee didn’t seem to think so, and simply booked Lee Camp.  A win of course would secure automatic promotion for the home side, which saw some potentially premature celebrations kicking off in the ground.

Majewski was ready to try to quell the partying but his shot from the edge of the area was over the bar.  Cotterill made a triple-change as a last throw of the dice – Reid, Tudgay and Greening replacing Wootton, Majewski and McGugan.  The substitutes almost conspired to spoil the party, a great ball in from Reidy found Tudgay whose goalbound header was cleared off the line by Alex Pearce.

The final whistle heralded scenes of celebration from thousands of pitch-invading Reading fans, with a few Forest players left battling their way to the away end to applaud the visiting fans.  On face value, a disappointing defeat in a game where we gave more than just a good account of ourselves – however, given the bigger picture it seems churlish to be too down about not picking up a point (or maybe even three).

Huge credit is due to Steve Cotterill and his team, the players and the supporters – sure, there’s been plenty of mistakes made over this season but certainly the direction of travel for Forest is a vast improvement, as has been the quality of performances.  With our Championship status assured it will hopefully ‘grease the wheels’ of the takeover discussions that are supposedly already underway with a number of interested parties.

All in all, a massive sense of relief.