A John Swift double helped a dominant Royals outfit earn a fully deserved victory over Mark Warburton's Nottingham Forest this evening, with Sone Aluko forcing a third in a 3-1 home win.
- John Swift hands Royals first half lead with sweeping left-footed finish
- Brilliant counter attack started and finished by Swift to make it 2-0
- Aluko forces home a third with a near post drive that Jordan Smith parries into his net
- Osborn pulls one back for Forest late on with low skidding shot
Leandro Bacuna and Dave Edwards returned to the starting line-up while Sam Smithy retained his place in attack - Liam Kelly missed out through injury however and Tiago Ilori was also absent after his horrible clash of heads at the weekend.
It took two minutes for the home side to register the first shot, Swift linking up sublimely with Van den Berg and ghosting through the Forest midfield to pull the trigger, but his shot was charged down and Smith offside as he tried to recycle it.
Moments later, Gunter took aim. At left-back, he scuttled inside and drove a sweetly struck right-footed effort at goal, but Jordan Smith was down well to save low to his left.
Reading were pressing their opponents high and passing the ball well and it soon paid off with the opening goal of the game. Breaking from our own half, Barrow held the ball up and released Bacuna into space down the left flank. He fizzed a low cross into the feet of Swift who swept a first time left-footed shot past Jordan Smith to hand the Royals a deserved lead.
David Vaughan looked to respond immediately with a speculative drive from 25 yards that sailed harmlessly over Vito Mannone's crossbar. But the home side were back on the attack when Swift found Gunter in space. He cut inside again and drilled low at goal, a deflection took the sting off the effort and Smith gathered it into his body with relative ease.
With 18 minutes gone, Aluko swung in a free kick that Sam Smith was able to glance on towards goal. The ball looked to be dropping wide but the Forest keeper made sure and conceded the corner.
And Reading had the ball in the back of the net moments later, only for an offside flag to rule it out. Swift found Barrow in space on the left and he crossed it low into the six yard box early. A desperate Forest leg stretched out and put it into his own net, but the offside flag had gone up against Barrow in the build up. A marginal decision.
It was all Reading. The Royals broke from a Forest free kick which Swift stole possession from, but his early cross looking for Smith was just too strong to find the young forward at the far post.
Barrow's sheer pace took him past two Forest men effortlessly before Worrall barged him over as he looked to get into the box. But no free kick was given to the home fans' amazement. Next it was Swift to gave a pop, but again a deflection made it easy for Smith to collect on his goalline.
Mark Warburton's side were not getting an inch to work with, although it took a superb sliding tackle from McShane to take a misplaced Aluko pass off the toes of Cummings on the edge of the Reading penalty area.
Kieran Dowell, who had scored a hat-trick at Hull in midweek, skipped between Barrow and Van den Berg to get into the box along the byline with ten minutes of the half remaining, but he was eventually stopped in his tracks as he looked to pull it back.
It could have been 2-0 shortly after. Swift won the ball back with a brilliant tackle and Aluko swept in a cross that beat everyone, but Smith stooped to try and direct a header on target from close range but couldn't angle it back towards goal.
And in injury time of the first half, Forest came close to levelling when an inswinging cross from the left dropped for Dowell at the back post, but the visiting forward cushioned a difficult chane wide of the left upright.
Half time | Reading 1-0 Nottingham Forest
Van den Berg made way for Pelle Clement at the break and the away side started the second half brightly, with Mannone racing off his line to parry an Osborn effort in the opening minutes - Dowell had passed him into the box but the Italian stopper stayed big to save well.
Mannone had to be alert to push away a fierce Bridcutt shot from range that whistled towards the bottom left corner as Mark Warburton's men looked for a leveller.
Sam Smith was replaced by Yann Kermorgant on the hour mark, but Forest brought on Mustapha Carayol as they continued to press for a goal which would throw the game wide open once more.
Reading nearly had a second on the break though. Clement burst forward and delayed his pass to the overlapping Bacuna until late. Too late, Bacuna had to cut back inside to find a yard to shoot and his effort was blocked behind for a corner.
With 71 minutes played, a second goal arrived for Reading to settle the nerves a little. And it came in scintillating fashion. Swift started a counter attack with a superb early ball with the outside of his boot finding Barrow. He darted forwards and supplied a composed scooped cross for Swift who had joined the attack, and the midfielder slid in to toe the ball under Smith's body and home from six yards out.
It took a great save from Mannone to deny Dowell a goal back - the forward raced onto a ball over the top and in behind the back line, but an outstretched right arm pushed the shot wide and behind for a corner.
Mannone came to the rescue again from the corner, the ball dropped for Walker only six yards out but the big Italian throw a glove at his header to punch it off his line and away from danger.
And Reading had a third with 13 minutes of the match remaining. Clement fed Aluko, who twisted and turned his man before drilling left-footed at goal - and Smith couldn't keep it out at his near post.
Mannone saved again with his right palm as Walker directed a header towards goal and McShane's diving and thunderous block was enough to deny Eric Lichaj on the follow-up. However, Forest did pull one back with four minutes remaining - Osborn scuttling into the box and skidding a low effort in off the base of the left post for 3-1.
Four minutes of injury time were signalled by the fourth official, but Forest had no further response and the Royals saw the game out well, Andreas Bouchalakis hooking an injury time effort too high.
Full time | Reading 3-1 Nottingham Forest
Reading: Mannone, Bacune, Gunter, McShane (c), Moore, Van den Berg (Clement HT), Edwards, Swift, Barrow (Beerens 83), Aluko, Smith (Kermorgant 60).
Subs: Jaakkola, Richards, Blackett, Popa.
Goals: Swift 13, 71, Aluko 78
Nottingham Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Mancienne (c), Bridcutt, McKay (Carayol 63), Osborn, Dowell, Vaughan (Bouchalakis 74), Darikwa, Cummings (Walker 68), Worrall.
Subs: Henderson, Mills, Clough, Brereton.
Goals: Osborn 86
Att: 14,868 (1,282 away)