Nottingham Forest enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over Reading at the Madejski Stadium this afternoon.
An excellent finish from Matty Fryatt was sandwiched between wonder goals from Ben Osborn and Gary Gardner as Forest put the Royals to the sword in the second half.
In the build up to the match Dougie Freedman hinted he may need to rest players with the busy fixture schedule in mind.
And he made three changes to the side that beat Bournemouth in midweek, Michael Mancienne, Fryatt and Jamie Paterson coming in for Gardner, Chris Burke and Dexter Blackstock, who all dropped to the bench.
Reading boss Steve Clarke named four former Reds in his line up, Chris Gunter, Simon Cox, Garath McCleary and Nathaniel Chalobah all starting the match.
It was after McCleary won a fourth-minute corner that Reading created the first chance of the game, Jordan Obita crossing the ball for Pavel Pogrebnyak to head it over the bar.
A minute later Forest had a chance of their own when the hosts conceded possession to Michail Antonio in midfield. He moved the ball to Osborn, who reached the edge of the ‘D’ before bobbling his shot harmlessly wide with attacking options either side of him.
It had been a low-key start to the match but Antonio did his best to spark the affair into life on 20 minutes. After a spell of patient Forest passing, Henri Lansbury picked out Antonio with a first-time pass. With his back to goal 30 yards out, the winger controlled the ball, spun and took it to the edge of the area. Reading’s defenders couldn’t get near him but, off balance, Antonio could only fire the ball off-target with his left foot.
First-team opportunities have been hard to come by for Paterson this season, but he had an opportunity to make his mark a minute later when he nipped in from behind a Reading defender to meet Antonio’s cross. Paterson had to quickly adjust his body to head the ball goalwards but he could only send it high into the air. Adam Federici claimed it easily.
Two of Forest’s former players combined shortly afterwards as the Royals carved out a good opportunity to open the scoring. McCleary’s dink from the right picked out Cox unmarked in the area, but the striker could only send the ball bobbling across goal and wide of the far post.
And it was a similar story on 32 minutes as Chalobah found Gunter with a nice ball over the top. Gunter’s pull back picked out Cox perfectly but he fired the ball over the bar from eight yards.
Reading were finishing the half the stronger of the two sides but they were left frustrated again on 38 minutes. Cox beat Danny Collins down the right and crossed the ball low to the edge of the area, where Pogrebnyak had cleverly positioned himself. The Russian struck the ball sweetly first time but Jamaal Lascelles was well placed to divert it wide.
And Lascelles was called upon again with three minutes to play in the half, clearing the ball off the line after McCleary had controlled a cross from the left and struck it past Darlow at the near post.
Freedman made his first change at half-time, replacing Paterson with Burke, and the Scotsman had an immediate impact.
He crossed the ball low for Antonio, who showed excellent feet to control it and buy himself space to shoot. Fryatt was in the way of his effort but the ball ricocheted to Osborn, who fired it across goal and just wide of the far post.
Reading’s response came on 48 minutes when McCleary’s corner picked out Pogrebnyak unmarked at the back post. He could only ruffle the side-netting with his effort.
Forest had struggled to test Federici, but that changed on 52 minutes. Burke’s cross from the left was perfect for Fryatt to direct a glancing header towards the Australian’s top corner. The keeper produced an acrobatic save to push the ball wide.
But there was nothing Federici could do on 56 minutes as Forest opened the scoring in spectacular style. Osborn picked himself up after appearing to be fouled in midfield, received the ball from a neat Fox touch and curled it high into the air first time, over the stranded keeper and into the back of the net from 25 yards.
Forest could have doubled their lead through Antonio two minutes later. He showed brilliant strength to hold off Gunter down the right before bursting away from the full back. He reached the edge of the area but didn’t connect with the ball as he’d have liked, sending it a yard wide.
Pogrebnyak looked like Reading’s best hope of finding an equaliser, and the big striker forced Darlow into action on 64 minutes after seeing his dinked ball headed back to him by Lascelles. He connected sweetly with his left-footed volley but Darlow positioned himself well to push the ball away.
And the Russian played a pivotal role in creating his side’s next chance, capitalising on Burke’s sloppy pass to race away from Mancienne through the middle of the pitch. Reading worked the ball to Gunter, who had made a strong overlapping run, and the Welshman crossed it low into the middle. The pace of the ball beat Darlow but no-one in a Reading shirt was able to turn it home.
The home side were pushing for an equaliser, but after one of their forward forays broke down on 70 minutes they found themselves 2-0 down.
Antonio carried the ball through midfield and into Reading’s final third, committing a number of defenders before playing it to Fryatt in the right-hand side of Reading’s area. The forward showed brilliant feet to beat his man before lashing the ball past Federici and high into the net.
Reading opted for a change up front as The Reds celebrated in front of their 2,000-strong support, replacing Cox with Yakubu.
Darlow had to make a strong save from Chalobah with quarter of an hour to play, diving to his left to push the ball away from his top corner after the former Forest loanee had curled it goalwards from 20 yards.
Gardner replaced Fryatt moments later, with Osborn pushing out wide and Antonio taking up the lone striker role, before Danny Guthrie replaced Hal Robson-Kanu for the hosts.
But it was all over seconds later when Gardner picked the ball up in space before crashing it off the underside of the bar and into the net from 30 yards.
Forest’s final substitution saw Antonio replaced by Dexter Blackstock with eight minutes to play.
And the rest of the match was plain sailing for The Reds as they claimed their fifth win in six matches.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Lascelles, Collins, Fox, Antonio (Blackstock 82'), Mancienne, Lansbury (c), Osborn, Paterson (Burke 46'), Fryatt (Gardner 77')
Subs not used: De Vries, Wilson, Veldwijk, Vaughan
Goals: Osborn 56', Fryatt 70', Gardner 80'
: Federici, Gunter, Pearce (c), Hector, Obita, Robson-Kanu (Reading
Guthrie 80'), Williams, Chalobah, McCleary, Pogrebnyak, Cox (Yakubu 71')
Subs not used: Andersen, Kelly, Travner, Norwood, Blackman
Booking: McCleary 60'
Referee: Mick Russell
Attendance: 18,586 (2,042 away)