Nottingham Forest made it back-to-back wins and maintained their place at the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a convincing 4-0 victory over Reading at The City Ground this afternoon.
Goals from Matty Fryatt and Britt Assombalonga followed a brace from Michail Antonio as The Reds cruised to success over a team predicted to be one of their promotion rivals.
Reds manager Stuart Pearce made two changes from Tuesday night’s win at Bournemouth with Eric Lichaj dropping to the bench and Jack Hobbs missing out altogether with a slight knock. Jack Hunt and Dan Harding replaced them in the starting line-up while Danny Fox moved to a central-defensive position alongside Michael Mancienne.
The game’s early stages were quiet with both sides putting together some nice passages of play but it soon sprung to life when Antonio handed Forest the lead on 17 minutes.
Britt Assombalonga did well to hold the ball up on the edge of the penalty area with his back to goal before feeding Chris Burke in the right-hand channel.
The winger lofted a deep cross over the Reading defence where Antonio was lurking at the back post to loop a header up and over Adam Federici in the Reading goal.
The rampaging Antonio was causing all sorts of problems for the visiting defence and he immediately had a chance to help double The Reds’ lead.
After springing a counter-attack and racing almost 40 yards upfield, Antonio had Assombalonga and Burke in support but the Reading defence got back to cover and see out the danger.
Reading had obvious quality in their ranks and another swift move almost gave them a chance of an equaliser.
A good interchange between Nick Blackman and Chris Gunter down the right led to the former Forest man delivering a dangerous low cross but none of his teammates were on hand inside the box to slot it home and it rolled out on the far side.
Forest had looked good in the air all afternoon and it was unsurprising that a set-piece provided their next chance. Andy Reid floated a corner onto the head of Fox but his header was palmed away by Federici with Fryatt shooting the rebound wide of the target.
The visitors pushed for equaliser in the minutes leading up to half-time and would count themselves unlucky not to have levelled matters before the interval. Fox’s defensive header went up rather than out and as it fell to Aaron Kuhl on the volley inside the penalty area, the youngster fluffed his lines as his effort dribbled tamely wide of the target.
From the next phase of play, Jordan Obita’s fizzing cross somehow evaded everyone inside the Forest area and out for a goal-kick as The Reds took their goal-lead into the break.
Pearce made a change at the break with Lichaj replacing Harding and his side made the perfect start to the second half as they doubled their advantage.
Hunt had been marauding down the channels throughout the first half and it was his run and cross that found Antonio at the back post as the winger slotted past a scrambling Federici and into the bottom corner.
The Reds were a constant attacking threat and six minutes later they stretched their advantage. Antonio this time turned provider as he delivered a perfect cross onto the head of Fryatt and the striker made no mistake in powering a header past Federici.
Life was proving difficult for the Reading back four and they were almost caught out once again on 57 minutes. Reid’s 50-yard cross-field ball from left to right found Assombalonga but after watching the ball over his shoulder, the striker’s first-time shot flew over the bar and into the Bridgford Stand.
That miss was only to prolong the inevitable though as Assombalonga got his name on the scoresheet soon after. A huge scramble inside the Reading six-yard box saw Antonio, Fryatt and Assombalonga have attempts at goal but it was the latter who ended up tapping home from two yards out.
Nigel Adkins’s side weren’t going to give up hope though and were could have pulled a goal back on 71 minutes. A one-two between former Reds striker Simon Cox and Blackman sent the latter through on goal but Karl Darlow got down well to his left to produce a smart stop.
Reds captain Chris Cohen was the first Forest man to be shown a yellow card for a foul on Craig Tenner inside his own half. His manager then made a double change with Ben Osborn and Jamie Paterson replacing Antonio and Burke and one of his substitutes almost made the perfect impact.
Reading could only clear Reid’s curling free-kick straight to Paterson inside the penalty area but his instinctive snap-shot was well blocked out by Federici and the visitors were able to scramble the ball out to halfway.
Forest could have further extended their lead with a trio of chances on 81 minutes. Lichaj first cut in from the left-hand channel before sending an arrowing strike towards goal which Federici had to claw behind for a corner.
From the resulting set-piece, Cohen got his angles wrong and miscued his shot from six yards before the ball fell to Fryatt but he could only send the ball wide from close-range.
Five minutes were added on at the end of the game as the rain teemed down on Trentside but there were no further goals as Forest saw out a deserved four-goal victory.
Forest: Darlow, Hunt, Mancienne, Fox, Harding (Lichaj, 46'), Burke (Paterson, 75'), Reid, Cohen (c), Antonio (Osborn, 74'), Fryatt, Assombalonga
Subs not used: De Vries, Veldwijk, McLaughlin, Tesche
Bookings: Cohen (69')
Scorers: Antonio (17', 47'), Fryatt (53'), Assombalonga (64')
Reading: Federici, Gunter (c), Cummings, Hector, Pearce, Obita (Tshibola 86'), Kuhl, Blackman, Taylor (Norwood, 58'), Edwards (Tanner, 60'), Cox
Subs not used: McCarthy, Cooper, Akpan,Stacey
Bookings: Blackman (79')
Attendance: 22,795 (785 away)
Referee: Andy Woolmer